elk, name applied to several large members of the deer family. It most properly designates the largest member of the family, Alces alces, found in the northern regions of Eurasia and North America. In North America this animal is called moose. The name elk is used in North America to designate a different animal, the wapiti, closely related to the red deer of Europe. The prehistoric Irish elk, Megaceros giganteus, is still another species, related to the fallow deer. It was found in Europe and W Asia in Pleistocene and early Holocene times and had an 11-ft (3.3-m) antler span, the largest of any deer. All animals called elk are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Cervidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.