Red Deer & North American Elk
I recently wrote a post on another blog about red deer, and noted this species was considered the same species as North American elk (Cervus elaphus). I received an immediate and definite post that they were, in fact, 2 different species.
It’s far from the first disagreement on my writing, but I have a deep interest in ungulates and the deer family in particular, so it did get me thinking. There seems to be quite a bit of disagreement. IUCN and the American Society of Mammalogists say red deer and elk are the same species. Valerius Geist, who I consider one of the world’s experts on deer, considers them separate species, as do the seemingly less reliable Groves & Grubb.
Having spent a lot of time elk watching, and some time red deer watching, I have to say I think of them as different animals. But field observation is so often wrong about all things taxonomic, no?
I know some of you are far more expert on taxonomy than I am. What do you think? One species or two species?