Moose-elk Hybrids

Mammalian Hybrids



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John Amos Comenius
moose-deer hybrid An ostensible moose-deer hybrid photographed near Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. The antlers of this animal are more similar to those of a mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) than to those of an elk (Cervus elephas). Enlarge

Moose (Alces alces)

red-deer Red Deer Cervus elaphus, known also as an Elk or Wapiti in North America.

Stag-moose hybrid Stag-moose, as pictured by Wikipedia (Artist: Robert Bruce Horsfall)

Moose (Alces alces) and elk (Cervus elaphus) come into potential breeding contact in both northern North America and northern Eurasia. A probable moose-elk hybrid, a male with mixed features, was shot in Montana in 1931. A communication appearing in vol. 20 (p. 95) of Science News Letter, and dated August 8, 1931, reads as follows:

The first known specimen of a cross between a moose and an elk was recently killed in the Deerlodge National Forest, in Bear Gulch [Jefferson Co., Montana]. The animal, known to United States forest rangers as ‘the elk with the funny horns,’ associated with elk and grazed like them, but had a body and horns that were half moose and half elk. He was first seen [in 1925] on the Boulder Creek District of the Deerlodge Forest when about three years old, judging from his appearance. When killed, the animal weighed 1100 pounds.” The presence of the animal in a C. elaphus herd suggests its mother was an elk.

See also: California Fish and Game, 1931, vol. 17, p. 198 (Internet Citations: CALFG); Nature, 128, 676-677 (17 October 1931).

In addition, an intermediate animal of this type is known from fossils and has been described as a species, the stag-moose (Cervalces scotti), pictured at right. According to Wikipedia, it "was a large, moose-like deer of North America during the Pleistocene epoch. It is the only known North American member of the genus Cervalces. It was slightly

larger than the moose, with an elk-like head, long legs, and complex, palmate antlers. Cervalces scotti reached 2.5 m (8.2 ft) in height and a weight of 708.5 kg (1,562 lb). The species went extinct approximately 11,500 years ago, toward the end of the most recent ice age, as part of a mass extinction of large North American mammals. The first evidence of the stag-moose found in modern times was discovered at Big Bone Lick, Kentucky by William Clark, circa 1805. A more complete skeleton was found in 1885 by William Barryman Scott in New Jersey. Mummified remains have also been found. The stag-moose frequented wetlands in a range from southern Canada to Arkansas and from Iowa to New Jersey.

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stag-moose A stag-moose skeleton in the Royal Ontario Museum (Image: Wikipedia, Staka)

The Illinois State Museum website states that "The stag-moose or elk (scientific name Cervalces scotti) is

an extinct deer slightly larger than the modern moose. Its name, stag-moose, refers to the fact that it looks much like a cross between an elk and a moose. If you had been around to see one alive, you might have thought it looked like a stilt-legged moose with the face of an elk and very complex palmate antlers.
Charles Hallock Charles Hallock

In 1911, sportsman Charles Hallock claimed to have seen a specimen which apparently consisted only of a rack of antlers attached to a frontal bone. From his comments, it is not entirely clear whether the rack was of ancient origin or a modern specimen, but given that he says that he saw it in a region of northwestern Minnesota (Kittson County) where elk and moose regularly come together, it was probably the latter. At any rate, he is quoted in The Pittsburgh Press - Jul 16, 1911, p. 5, as follows,

I have seen a great freak of natural product...which shows the horns of a moose and an elk, each perfectly developed on one frontal bone, but all one antler, half moose, half elk. What the animal was that wore these horns was like I was unable to ascertain. I should not suppose, though, that hybridity would manifest itself in the horns alone. Under the conditions of habitat, hybridity would not only be quite possible, but even natural.

Similar crosses:

Moose × Cow

Axis Deer × Tahr

Roe Deer × Sheep

Reindeer × Cow

Red Deer × Cow

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Note: In Europe, Cervus elaphus is referred to by the common name red deer, whereas in North America the common names are elk or wapiti. These two deer have often been treated as separate species (Cervus canadensis in the New World and Cervus elaphus in the Old World), particularly since the publication of Pitra et al. (2004), but the two have often simply been lumped under the name Cervus elaphus. Hybrids of the two are fertile in both sexes (Flower 1929a, p. 317; Gray 1971, p. 152; Howard 1965; Lantz 1910; ; Rörig 1903; Seitz 1959a; von Knottnerus-Meyer 1904; Wodzicki 1950). Likewise, Alces alces has a different name in Europe, where it's called elk, whereas in North America the common name used is moose.

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