California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Taxonomy & Nomenclature

  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Cervidae
  • Scientific name: Cervus elaphus nannodes
  • Common name: Tule elk

Description & Identification Aides

There are three species of elk that exist in California; Roosevelt (Cervus elaphus roosevelti), Rocky Mountain (Cervus elaphus nelsoni), and Tule (Cervus elaphus nannodes) elk. The Tule Elk are the smallest of all the elk species in North America and they are endemic to California. Given this, location and size are the easiest way to differentiate between the species. The adult bulls have an average weight of 450-700 lbs., with some topping the scales at over 800 lbs. The adult cows average 375-425 lbs. The yearlings (spike bulls) average about the same weight as the adult females (Hobbs 2007, McCullough, 1969). The coats are light, buffy beige with a darker brown long haired mane circling the necks of both the males and females. The calves are similar to deer fawns, with a light brown spotted coat. All animals display a prominent white rump. They average 7 feet in length and stand 4-5 feet in height at the shoulder. The male yearlings are also known as spikes, during their first year of antler growth they only have one antler that is very thin and spindly compared to the large racks that the dominant males demonstrate. The females do not have antlers and the males drop theirs annually which re-grow a little larger with more tines as they age (Kanewske, 2000).