The Eurasian elk is the largest Swedish mammal and it is today relatively common all over the country. However, two hundred years ago, the elk was hunted so severely that only a small population remained in the central parts of Sweden.
The males are larger than the females and may in Scandinavia exceed 500 kg.
The Eurasian elk is found all over Sweden with the exception of the island of Gotland. It prefers young forest adjacent to bogs. The northern European forestry practice of clear-cutting provides rich sources of seedlings, and is beneficial to the elk.
The diet consists of herbs, twigs, bark, shoots and seedlings of various trees. During winter, they often feed on young pines, spruces and junipers, something that is usually not appreciated by the forest owner.
An elk can live for 20–25 years.
After being close to extinction, the Eurasian elk was saved by complete legal protection followed by strictly regulated hunting during the late 1800’s. Today, the Swedish elk population consists of approximately 400 000 animals. Every fall, at the annual hunt, 100 000 animals or 25 % of the population are shot.
During the rutting period the bulls make shallow holes in the ground and then proceed to urinate and roll in them. The gestation period is 8 months. Young cows will usually only give birth to one young, but twins are common for older mothers. Triplets are also known to occur.
The impressive antlers are found on male elks only and may on older bulls weigh up to 30 kg. The antlers are shed every winter and grow back in the spring. The male elk will have one of two varieties of antler: palmate with a flatter portion and small tines or the more twig-like dendritic with longer tines.
The elk is the largest, now living deer. The North American subspecies, commonly known as the moose, is significantly larger than ours with weights up to 800 kg.