Deer, Elk, Moose: What’s the Difference?

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What is the difference between a deer, elk, and moose?

Many people are not sure, especially since they all look similar.

They are all classified under the cervid family, but there are some distinct differences between them.

When you are out hunting, it is important to be able to identify the difference between deer, elk, and moose.

This will help you determine what animal you are hunting and what type of weapon you should use.

In this blog post, we will discuss the key differences between these animals. We will also provide photos so that you can better familiarize yourself with them.

After reading this blog post, you will be able to accurately identify deer, elk, and moose when you see them in the wild.

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Are they all deer?

The deer, elk, and moose all fall under the family of animals called cervids.

This family includes many animals that have antlers or horns, as well as four-legged mammals.

You may be familiar with other members of this family such as the reindeer, caribou, or mule deer.

All cervids are herbivores and eat mostly plants.

All deer are hoofed ruminant animals that fall into two categories: Cervinae and Capreolinae.

Cervinae:

This subfamily includes Tufted deer,  muntjac, Chital, and elk.

Capreolinae: This subfamily includes reindeer, roe deer, and moose.

Now that we know a little bit more about where these animals come from, let’s discuss the key differences between them.

Deer:

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The easiest way to identify a deer is by its size.

Deer are the smallest of the three animals and can range from 2.5 feet to 3.5 feet at the shoulder.

Another way to identify a deer is by its antlers.

Both male and female deer have antlers, but the antlers on a male deer are much larger.

(What is a 10-point buck? See this post for more)

Male deer also have a large neck and chest, which makes them look heavier than they actually are. 

Mule deer are found in and around Estes Park and weigh between 120-330 pounds on average.

Where you’ll find deer:  Search for them feeding in open, shrub-filled areas between dusk and dawn.

What they eat: Deer are herbivores and their diet consists of plants, fruits, and nuts.

They will also eat acorns and other nuts that fall from trees.

(What Meat Is Venison? Find out here)

Elk:

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Elk are larger than deer and can weigh up to 1000 pounds.

They have a long body and short legs, which makes them appear lanky.

Elk also have large antlers, but they are not as large as the antlers on a male moose.

Both male and female elk have antlers, but the antlers on a male elk are much larger.

Male elk also have a large neck and chest, which makes them look heavier than they actually are. 

They can range from 4 feet to 6 feet at the shoulder.

Elk also have antlers, but they are shorter and thinner than those of a deer.

Male elk also have a large neck and chest, but their body is not as bulky as a moose.

They are averaging between 710-730 pounds. 

Where you’ll find elk: Look for them in open areas such as meadows, valleys, and mountainsides. They are most active at dawn and dusk.

What they eat: Elk are herbivores and their diet consists of grasses, leaves, and twigs. They will also eat fruits and nuts when they are available.

Moose:

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Moose are the largest of the three animals and can range from 6.5 feet to 7.5 feet at the shoulder.

They are weighing in at 840-1500 pounds on average.

Moose also have antlers, but they are longer and wider than those of a deer or elk.

In addition to their antlers, moose have a large hump on their back near their shoulders.

This hump is where they store fat for the winter months.

Male moose also have a large neck and chest, which makes them look even larger than they actually are.

Where you’ll find moose: Look for them in wet areas such as lakes, marshes, and swamps. They are most active at dawn and dusk.

What they eat: Moose are herbivores and their diet consists of aquatic plants, grasses, and leaves. They will also eat twigs, berries, and bark when they are available.

This video gives you a good idea of the size difference between Elk and Deer:

Tracks:

Deer:

The deer has small, delicate hooves that leave a dainty print.

The front prints are almost heart-shaped, while the back prints are more oval.

You will often see pairs of deer tracks together because they walk single file. Deer tracks typically measure between 1 and 3 inches long.

(Can Deer Swim? See this post for more)

Elk:

The elk has large, round hooves that leave a distinct print.

The front prints are larger than the back prints and are usually wider than they are long. Elk tracks typically measure between 4 and 6 inches long.

Moose:

The moose has large, wide hooves that leave a distinct print.

The front prints are larger than the back prints and are usually wider than they are long. Moose tracks typically measure between 6 and 8 inches long.

FAQs

Do all three animals have antlers?

Yes, all three animals have antlers. However, the size and shape of the antlers vary among the different species.

What is the best time of day to see deer, elk, or moose?

The best time of day to see deer, elk, or moose is at dawn or dusk. This is when they are most active.

What do deer, elk, and moose eat?

Deer, elk, and moose are all herbivores. Their diet consists of plants, fruits, nuts, and leaves.

(What Is A Baby Deer Called? See this post for more)

Where can I find deer, elk, and moose?

Deer can be found in open areas such as meadows, woods, and fields. Elk are typically found in open areas such as meadows and valleys. Moose are usually found in wet areas such as lakes, swamps, and marshes.

How are killer whales and Greenland sharks predators of moose?

Killer whales and Greenland sharks are both predators of moose. They hunt them for their meat. Killer whales will attack a moose from below and drag it underwater where they will drown it. Greenland sharks will eat a moose alive, starting with its head. It’s because moose frequently swim between the islands off the northwest coast of America.

Are moose and elk endangered?

No, moose and elk are not endangered. In fact, they are doing quite well. The population of moose has been increasing in recent years, and the population of elk is stable.

Conclusion

Now that you know the difference between deer, elk, and moose, you can be sure to identify them correctly when you see them in the wild.

Remember, deer are the smallest of the three animals and have the smallest antlers.

Elk are the second largest animal and have antlers that can span up to 6 feet wide.

Moose are the largest animal and have antlers that can span up to 8 feet wide. If you ever have any questions about these animals, be sure to ask a ranger or other expert. Thanks for reading!

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