by Monica Lasky on December 16, 2019
What do white-tailed deer, elk, and Santa’s reindeer all have in common? All of these species are part of the Cervidae (“deer”) family, a group of mammals distinguished by their ruminant digestive system, antlers, and cloven hooves. Along with the species mentioned above, moose, caribou, and muntjacs also fall within this group. Cerverds are known for their long, slender necks, compact torsos, and agility; white-tailed deer, for example, can run up to 40 miles an hour and are strong swimmers and jumpers1.
Even though North Carolina might not have any reindeer frolicing about, we do have other cervids that we’d like to point out this holiday season. NC has one long-standing cervid, the white-tailed deer, as well as a recently reintroduced species: the elk, brought from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area along the Tennessee-Kentucky border to the Blue Ridge Mountains in 2001 and 2002 by the National Park Service to replenish the locally extinct population.
White-tailed deer (left) and elk (right) are Cervids native to North Carolina.
Candid Critters has photographed both of these species on our camera traps. As you have probably guessed, the white-tailed deer is observed on our cameras much more often than the elk – in fact, the white-tailed deer is the most photographed species in Candid Critters, and can be seen in 33% of all of our wildlife photos!
On the other hand, Candid Critters has photographed elk on camera only 64 times. Of course, because this species was recently reintroduced, elk exist in North Carolina at a very low population level estimated at only 150-200 individuals2. However, if this species is able to thrive within the state, we should be able to see populations increase over time.
Want to learn more about elk and white-tailed deer in North Carolina? Check out the interactive graphic below!
 North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “White-tailed Deer Species Profile”. https://www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Species/Mammals/Whitetail-Deer#6328483-species-profile. Accessed on 03 December 2019.
 North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “Elk”. https://www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Species/Mammals/Elk. Accessed on 03 December 2019.