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Causes of the Extinction of the Eastern Elk (Cervus Canadensis Canadensis)

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The Eastern elk was extinct in the United States prior to the Civil War. While these large mammals were once plentiful throughout the Appalachian Mountains and into Canada, they have not been seen in North America since the 1800s. The Eastern elk was very similar to other type of elk commonly found in the United States.

The Eastern Elk

The Eastern elk once roamed freely in large herds located in the Eastern part of the United States and Canada, feasting happily on grass as well as consuming twigs and shrubs from plants. These elk were the size of large deer and weighed in at approximately 1,100 pounds. The elk's coats were tawny brown and male elk, called stags, featured large antlers, which were shed after mating season.


Modern scientists believe the Eastern elk was hunted into extinction by early settlers. The elk were consumed for their meat as well as hunted for sport. Eastern elk were often hunted for their antlers and teeth, which were used in necklaces, according to the Royal Ontario Museum and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Loss of Habitat

The Royal Ontario Museum and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources also state that a loss of habitat and resources may have played a role in the extinction of the Eastern elk. Hunters waited for the elk at the locations of natural salt licks and killed the elk as they used the salt licks to consume needed nutrients.

Modern Elk

Elk who are currently seen on the Eastern seaboard of the United States were imported from other areas of the country to replace the extinct Eastern elk. Elk have been reintroduced to the areas where the Eastern elk once roamed as the result of state and government programs to bring elk back to areas of the country where they were brought to extinction by human actions.