Photo: Arne Ader
Elk; Moose (North America) Põder Alces alces
Elk cows have been giving birth to calves for a couple of weeks now and at the end of the breeding period our forests have received five thousand new inhabitants in round figures, a quite impressive number.
Before giving birth the female banishes her offspring from the previous year that has been keeping company with her, and the year-old youngsters must now manage on their own. Spring and early summer is the time when inexperienced young elks come into human settlements. They are looking for suitable territories for themselves. On crossing roads sometimes the animals cannot get back to the familiar forest, orientation is lost and all kinds of muddles and mishaps occur...
To young elk cows, up a couple of years old, most frequently one calf is born; as they grow older more calves may be born, but three calves very seldom. The weight of the newly born beings varies between six and sixteen kilos, they have pale brown fur and are vigorous. In addition to mother’s milk they begin at once to nibble at grass too.
Russia has had elk farms for decades and in connection with this the nutritional value of elk milk has been studied: in May-June the fat content of the milk is 8-13% and the protein content 12-16%. Numbers can be compared with those on the packages of milk sold in the shops.
Depending on age the elk calf uses up to a couple of litres of milk per day. Suckling lasts until autumn and in late autumn the springtime calves already weigh well over a hundred kilos.
If you happen to come across an elk calf in nature it is wise to retreat. The female often leaves her baby to rest and visits only to suckle it until the calf is sturdy enough to go with the mother. A solitary elk calf should not be assumed to be an orphan or cast off. Big animals know their territories well and of course there are threats and enemies there.