Cervus canadensis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Cervidae

Scientific Name: Cervus canadensis Erxleben, 1777
Common Name(s):
English Wapiti, Alashan Wapiti, Izubra/Manchurian Wapiti, McNeill’s Deer, Merriam’s Wapiti, Shou, Siberian Wapiti, Tien Shan Wapiti, Tule Elk
French Cerf Wapiti
Spanish Uapití
Taxonomic Source(s): Randi, E., Mucci, N., Claro-Hergueta, F., Bonnet, A. and Douzery, E.J.P. 2001. A mitochondrial DNA control region phylogeny of Cervinae: speciation in Cervus and implications for conservation. Animal Conservation 4: 1-12.
Taxonomic Notes: Although Grubb (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) included canadensis in C. elaphus sharing this conclusion with most taxonomists of 20th century, all original scientific papers published since 1995 have concluded that C. elaphus and C. canadensis are two valid species regardless of whether this conclusion was based on comparison of molecular (Kuwuyama and Ozawa 1999, Randi et al. 2001, Ludt et al. 2004, Pitra et al. 2004, Zhang and Zhang 2012, Liu et al. 2013, Lorenzini and Garofalo 2015), or ethological data (Cap et al. 2008, Frey and Riede 2013). Based on morphological data this was suggested earlier by several authors, e.g. Lydekker (1898), Flerov (1952) and Geist (1998) and both recent reviews on cervid taxonomy are in line with this opinion (Groves and Grubb 2011, Mattioli 2011).

A recent analysis (Lorenzini and Garofolo 2015) of the Cervus group has provided the first indications of another, third, species (aside from Cervus nippon). Mitochondrial complete cytochrome b and control region sequences were analysed under a Bayesian coalescent framework to derive phylogeny, with particular attention on populations from Central Asia. The resultant phylogenetic reconstruction confirmed that red deer is differentiated into two robust monophyletic clades corresponding to the western and eastern part of the range. At the species level, molecular data suggested a fourth species should be recognised, the Tarim Red Deer from Central Asia, including the populations from the Yarkand-Tarim and Bukhara regions and Indian Kashmir, which were formerly considered as subspecies of C. elaphus (C. e. yarkandensis, C.e. bactrianus and C.e. hanglu, respectively). The authors suggest this taxon should be recognised as the Tarim Red Deer (Cervus hanglu, Wagner 1844), as the name with priority over C. yarkandensis or C. bactrianus. Further investigations need to be conducted from additional molecular sources and nuclear coding genes as well as verification of morphology from museum specimens, before the elevation of this taxon to species level can be confirmed (Lorenzini and Garofalo 2015). We provisionally follow this taxonomy here for the purpose of the IUCN Red List assessment in 2016. However, it should be noted that future clarification on genetic relatedness, especially studies with nuclear markers and a more formal morphological description, may lead to further revisions to the taxonomy of the provisional species, C. hanglu, as more information becomes available.

C.c. macneilli and wallichii are included here as subspecies of C. canadensis, both are sometimes placed in the “primitive group” of elaphines (with hanglu) based on morphological characters (Geist 1998, Groves 2003, Wilson and Mittermeier 2011), although genetic data place these taxa with the C. canadensis group (Ludt et al. 2004, Lorenzini and Garofalo 2015).

The North American population of the Wapiti has been split into a number of subspecies by various authors, including manitobensis, nelsoni, roosevelti, nannodes, canadensis and merriam (e.g. Meredith et al. 2007, Speller et al. 2014). Polziehn et al. (1998) conducted a phylogenetic study of North American Wapiti and concluded that there is a slight difference between North American Wapiti populations, most likely due to the limited numbers of founders of these populations, but that Roosevelt Elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti) and Tule Elk (C. c. nannodes) are monophyletic which supports their subspecific status. Polziehn et al. (2000) questioned the subspecific status of C.c. manitobensis and C. c. nelsoni following analysis of 11 populations of North American Elk for genetic diversity.

Here we recognise the subspecies and their distributions as follows:

C. c. canadensis – N America
C. c. alashanicus – N China
C. c. nannodes - California
C. c. roosevelti - Vancouver Island, Washington state and Oregon
C. c. sibiricus – NE Kazakhstan and N Xinjiang to S Siberia and N Mongolia
C. c. xanthopygus – SE Siberia, Russian Far East, Ussuriland, Manchuria
C. c. macneilli – Lydekker 1909 (Central and SW China (N Qinghai, Gansu, Shaanxi, W Sichuan and E Xizang)
C. c. wallichii - G. Cuvier 1823 (SW China (SE Xizang), Bhutan)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-01-25
Assessor(s): Brook, S.M., Pluháček, J., Lorenzini, R., Lovari, S., Masseti, M. & Pereladova, O.
Reviewer(s): McShea, W.J. & Duckworth, J.W.
Contributor(s): Herrero, J. & Carden, R.F.
Until recently this species was considered a subspecies of Cervus elaphus and thus not evaluated on the IUCN Red List. This species is listed as Least Concern due to a wide distribution and presumed large populations. There have been range contractions and presumably population declines in some parts of the species' range both in Asia and North America, but overall it is not believed to approach the threshold for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in three generations). The species may in fact be increasing globally.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Wapiti has a distribution extending from central Asia (northeast Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Altai), through Siberia, north China, central and southwest China, Bhutan, northern Mongolia, Manchuria and Ussuriland to North America (Corbet 1978, Koubek and Zima 1999, Wilson and Ruff 1999). It occurs from sea level to above the tree line (c. 3,300 m). The distribution is much more patchy and fragmented than the apparent continuity suggested by the distribution map.

In central Asia, it is found in Kazakhstan, east to Siberia, Mongolia, and W and N China. It is found regionally in Mongolia in Hövsgöl, Hangai, Hentii, Ikh Hyangan, Mongol-Altai and Govi Altai mountain ranges, it was reintroduced into open hills in south-eastern parts of its range (Sokolov et al. 1982, Dulamtseren et al. 1989). In China, specifically, it is found in Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Jilin, Liaoning, Manchuria, Ninxia, SE Xizang, N Qinghai, Gansu, Shaanxi, W Sichuan and E Xizang. In Russia, it inhabits almost all regions eastwards from Omskaya Oblast in the Siberian Federal District and the Far East Federal District. It is introduced in Italy (preserve of La Mandria, at Venaria Reale near Torino: Maschietti et al. 1988). There is also literary evidence for the attempted introduction (20 June 1890) of the species in the Mesola wood, in the Po delta (Masseti 2003).
Countries occurrence:
Bhutan; Canada; China; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Russian Federation; United States
Regionally extinct:
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:It is a widespread and abundant species across much of its current range, although there is increasing fragmentation of populations in the western USA and Canada, and the species has been lost from some areas. In portions of North America where predators have been removed the species is common and populations are managed by recreational hunting. In the late 1990s the population was estimated at about one million (Mattioli 2011) and Wapiti have been declared “overabundant” in many jurisdictions harbouring the species (Crete and Daigle 1999). Typical population densities range from 2 to 10 individuals per km² (up to c. 25 per km², higher figures in the literature almost certainly refer to fed populations: S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006). It is sufficiently abundant in some areas to be considered a pest in forestry plantations. Annual harvest in N America is around 200,000 individuals (Mattioli 2011). Californian Wapiti known as ‘Tule Elk’ had dropped to 2-5 individuals in 1875, strict protection and transplants resulted in population recovery, numbering 3,900 individuals in 22 herds in 2010 (Wilson and Mittermeier 2011, Williams et al. 2004).

In China, C. c. alashanicus occurs in the Alashan Mountains of southeastern Inner Mongolia (Ohtaishi and Gao 1990). In the late 1990s there were 8,000-10,000 deer in Mongolia. C. c. sibiricus occurs in the Tien Shan, N Xinjiang. The status of the species in northern China is unknown (Wilson and Mittermeier 2011).

The status of MacNeill's Red Deer (C. c. macneilli), in central and southwest China, is unknown (Wilson and Mittermeier 2011). The Shou (C. c. wallichii) was considered extinct and rediscovered in a few locations in southeast Tibet (Xizang) in 1995, it also occurs in Bhutan (Wilson and Mittermeier 2011).

In the 1980s the population size of C. c. sibiricus in Russia was estimated at 32,000 individuals and that of C. c. xanthopygus as 51,000 individuals. In the late 1990s the estimates were 43,000 and 126,000 individuals for both subspecies respectively (Baskin and Danell 2003). Although the populations of both subspecies are increasing, the differences in the population estimates between the 1980s and the 1990s may be due mostly to the utilisation of different methods (Danilkin 1999, Danilkin 2006).

In 2010, the population of C.c.xanthopygus was around 60,000 individuals. Most (35,000) inhabit the Primorsky and Khabarovsky regions, where it remains stable. In the Amursky region the population is estimated at 14,000 individuals and in Respublika Sakha (Yakutia) aproximately 5,000 individuals. On the Sakhalin peninsula the deer were reintroduced in the 1960s. Their numbers reached a peak in the 1990s when more than 700 individuals were counted. Due to illegal hunting the population declined sharply since then to less than 200 individuals in 2010 (Mosheva et al. 2010). Since 2010 the population of C.c. sibiricus in Russia has remained stable at 33,000-39,000 individuals. C.c. xanthopygus increased to 150,000 individuals in 2012 but decreased slightly in 2013 (J. Pluháček pers. comm. 2015).
Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It inhabits open deciduous woodland, the boreal forests of Siberia, upland moors and open mountainous areas (sometimes above the treeline), natural grasslands, pastures and meadows (Mattioli 2011). In woodland, its diet consists mainly of shrub and tree shoots, but in other habitats it also consumes grasses, sedges and shrubs.

Generally found in mountainous regions, where it spends summers in alpine meadows and winters in valleys. On more level terrain, seeks wooded hillsides in summer, open grasslands in winter. In the USA, Pacific coast populations are more sedentary than are those elsewhere. Migrates from areas with deep snow. Some individuals in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, migrate up to 97 kilometers annually (Adams 1982). In the Altai and Sayan Mountains seasonal migration may be up to 140 km (Mattioli 2011).

Bushes and trees are critical for protection from predators such as wolves, and as an important source of food during the winter in the form of browse (Chen et al. 1998). During the September-October rut, Mongolian populations congregate in large groups and are more often found in open lowland areas (Dulamtseren et al. 1989).

Found in China up to 5,000 m, animals come lower into valleys in winter. They live in small herds of females and young, gathering into larger herds in winter. Stags live singly or form all male herds in summer, but gather harems in rut season in late summer, without obvious territories. Natural lifespan is about 17-18 years. Calving occurs in May-June following a gestation of 247 days. Females drop single calves in late spring. Young are mature at 1.5-2.5 years.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In China the species is subject to heavy poaching (Gu Jinghe pers. comm.) (Xuchang and Minghai 2007). It is illigally hunted for antler velvet (traditional medicines) and other body parts ($60-100 per kg of antlers in Mongolia and similar values for other parts).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In many areas hunting is strictly regulated on this species and harvests are used to control population growth as large predators have been removed or "controlled" over much of the range. Overhunting and habitat loss as a result of agricultural intensification and urbanisation are other pressures (Wemmer 1998) in some areas and for some subspecies, but they are not thought to pose a major threat to the species at present.

In Mongolia, this species is primarily targeted for its antler velvet, which is highly valued in traditional medicines, with a market value of $60-100 USD per kg of antlers. Other body parts, including male genital organs, foetuses and female tails, are also valued for traditional medicines and have similar market values (Zahler et al. 2004). The resulting illegal and unsustainable hunting has caused a 92% population decline over the past 18 years (Zahler et al. 2004). Habitat loss and fragmentation, and human disturbance resulting from mining activities and infrastructure development, also constitute threats to some extent. Trophy hunters can purchase hunting licenses from which $1,170 USD is allocated to the government (MNE 2005).

In China the species is subject to heavy poaching (Gu Jinghe pers. comm.) (Xuchang and Minghai 2007). Antlers, tendons, unborn fawns, male reproductive organs, and tails from C. e. yarkandensis fetch a high price on local markets for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Current market prices for these products are increasing rapidly. Young deer are sold as stud for deer farming projects (Gu Jinghe 1991).

In Russia, the number of C. elaphus and C. canadensis harvested by legal hunting represents 8% of their populations. The quotas for legal hunting remain higher than the number actually hunted in all regions, the percentage of quotas reached for legally hunted deer were 70% for Cervus elaphus, 50% for C. c. sibiricus and 60% for C. c. xanthopygus (Mosheva et al. 2010). Major threats to the species in Russia include forest fires, illegal logging (especially of Siberian Pine) and poaching, the meat and antler velvet is used by oriental traditional medicine (O. Pereladova pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It occurs in numerous protected areas across its range.

C. c. sibiricus is farmed in Russia for its velvet which mitigates hunting pressure on wild populations (O. Pereladova pers. comm.).

Williams et al. (2004) caution that there is a high potential for inbreeding and loss of genetic variation within Tule Elk (C.c. nannodes) herds that are maintained at small size and without gene flow, and suggest that management strategies involving transplants would be the most beneficial in terms of maintaining nuclear variation within the subspecies.

Citation: Brook, S.M., Pluháček, J., Lorenzini, R., Lovari, S., Masseti, M. & Pereladova, O. 2016. Cervus canadensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T55997823A55997871. . Downloaded on 24 September 2017.
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