Cervus elaphus 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Cervidae

Scientific Name: Cervus elaphus
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Red Deer, Bactrian Wapiti, Bokharan Deer, Bukhara Red Deer, Elk, Bactrian Deer, Wapiti, Bactrian Red Deer
French Cerf De Bactriane, Cerf Du Turkestan, Cerf Élaphe, Cerf Élaphe Du Turkestan, Cerf Rouge Du Turkestan
Spanish Ciervo, Ciervo Bactriano, Ciervo Rojo
Taxonomic Notes: Grubb (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) included canadensis in C. elaphus. There is no strong consensus regarding the relationship between Cervus elaphus and Cervus canadensis. In recent decades, most authors have included C. canadensis in C. elaphus; i.e., North American Elk has been regarded as conspecific with Red Deer of western Eurasia. Geist (1998) recommended that C. elaphus and C. canadensis be regarded as distinct species. This is supported by patterns of mtDNA variation as reported by Randi et al. (2001).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Lovari, S., Herrero. J., Conroy, J., Maran, T., Giannatos, G., Stubbe, M., Aulagnier, S., Jdeidi, T., Masseti, M. Nader, I., de Smet, K. & Cuzin, F.
Reviewer(s): Black, P., González, S. (Deer Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is listed as Least Concern due to a wide circumpolar distribution and presumed large populations. There have been range contractions and presumably population declines in some parts of the species' range both in Eurasia and North America, but 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 ten years or three generations). However, genetic mixing as a result of introductions of deer from different areas is a problem that should be addressed.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The red deer has a large global distribution extending from Europe and North Africa through central Asia, Siberia, the Far East and North America (Corbet 1978, Koubek and Zima 1999, Wilson and Ruff 1999). Formerly widespread in Canada and the United States, it is now mostly restricted to western North America, with small reintroduced populations elsewhere (Grubb, in Wilson and Reeder 2005). It is widely but somewhat patchily distributed throughout most of continental Europe, although it is absent from northern Fennoscandia and European Russia. It is present on a number of islands, including the British Isles and Sardinia. It is extinct in Albania. There are several small introduced subpopulations in Russia (all introduced into nature reserves for hunting) of unknown origin. There may be a small natural subpopulation at Kaliningrad in Russia just across the Polish border (A. Tikhonov pers. comm. 2006). In Greece, the small isolated subpopulations are the result of reintroductions into areas where it previously occurred. Likewise in Portugal all populations result from reintroduction or natural expansion from transborder Spanish populations which in turn were reintroduced. It occurs from sea level to above the tree line (c.2,500 m) in the Alps. The distribution is much more patchy and fragmented than the apparent continuity suggested by the distribution map.

In Africa it is found in NE Algeria and Tunisia. It is in the near and Middle East in Turkey, N Iran, and Iraq, but extinct in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. In central Asia, it is found in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan (extinct), Uzbekistan, N Afghanistan, N India (Kashmir Valley), N Pakistan (vagrant), 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, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Sichuan, and E Tibet including Qinghai. It also inhabits Korea and the Ussuri region of Russia.
Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Algeria; Armenia (Armenia); Austria; Belarus; Belgium; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Canada; China; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; France (Corsica - Reintroduced, France (mainland)); Georgia; Germany; Hungary; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Ireland; Italy (Sardegna); Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Kyrgyzstan; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Netherlands; Norway; Pakistan; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Sweden; Switzerland; Tajikistan; Tunisia; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United States (Georgia); Uzbekistan
Regionally extinct:
Albania; Israel; Jordan; Lebanon; Mexico; Nepal; Syrian Arab Republic; Turkmenistan
Greece; Kazakhstan; Morocco
Argentina; Australia; Chile; New Zealand; Portugal
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):5000
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 northern Africa, central Europe and 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. 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. In Germany there are reports of 60,000 animals hunted per year. The most recent records indicate a population size of 150,000-180,000 in Germany (M. Stubbe pers. comm. 2006). The species has been extirpated in historical times from Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Jordan.

Populations in Northern Africa, however, have been increasingly declining. In Algeria, C. e. barbarus persists in the Annaba, Bouchegouf, and El-Kala regions, where it is restricted to the Beni-Salah, Ben Abed, and El-Kala forests (DSG 1988). The total number of animals in the mid-1970s was reported to be 400–600 (Halisse 1975), and by the late 1980s reached around 2,000 animals (Dolan 1988; de Smet 1989). However, the population has been in a sharp decline since (K. de Smet pers. comm.. 2007). In Tunisia, the population was reported to have expanded considerably during the 1970s, with populations known in El Feidja, Ain Draham, and Tabarka regions (DSG 1988). The total population of ten animals in 1961 had increased to around 2,000 by the late 1980s. Much of this increase is attributed to the success of the 1966 reintroduction protection program at El Feidja, which has resulted in colonization of an approx. 100 km length of coastal Tunisia (Dolan 1988). A survey in 2006 showed that population levels were significantly lower than estimated before. In Morocco it went extinct in the early 20th century (by 1932). There have more recently been reintroductions into two enclosures but wild populations have not yet become established (F. Cuzin pers. comm.. 2007).

A regional assessment has been completed for this species as part of the European Mammal Assessment (, which offers more details on European occuances, populations and threats.

In China, some eight subspecies of red deer are present in China, of which five have threatened status: C. e. yarkandensis had a declining population of about 4,000–5,000 in 1991, scattered along the Tarim and Karakax rivers, central Xinjiang Province (Gu Jinghe 1991); C. e. wallichi was thought to be present in southeastern Tibet; C. e. macneilli occurs in western Sichuan Province and eastern Tibet, where its status is unknown; C. e. alashanicus occurs in the Alashan Mountains of southeastern Inner Mongolia (Ohtaishi and Gao 1990). A recent survey by Schaller et al. (1996) suggests that C. e. affinis is confined to just a few localities in southeastern Tibet along the headwaters of the Subansiri River and Yarlung Tsangpo, which holds the largest known population of at least 110–125 (near Zhengi Village).
Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It inhabits open deciduous woodland, upland moors and open mountainous areas (sometimes above the treeline), natural grasslands, pastures and meadows (Koubek and Zima 1999). 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).

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 of red deer 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 15 years, but a captive animal lived up to almost 27 years. Calving occurs in June-July following a gestation of 235 days. Females drop single calves in late spring. Young are mature at 1.5-2.5 years.
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threat is the intermixing of the various subspecies, including subspecies from North America (wapiti) and Asia to Europe and vice versa, as well as hybridisation with sika deer Cervus nippon (Koubek and Zima 1999). The introduction of animals from North America to Europe has also resulted in the spread of parasites and diseases to previously unaffected subpopulations (e.g. liver worms). 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.). 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 India, the species historically declined due to intensive hunting, until implementation of conservation measures in the late 1970s. High densities of domestic stock (primarily sheep) and human disturbance have also been contributing factors (Kurt 1978). In Afghanistan and the former USSR, the species is heavily poached for food, and settlement, stock grazing, and reed burning have reduced available habitat (Petocz 1973). In Russia, it has declined as a result of development of the Amu-Darya river valley (Bannikov 1978). In Algeria and Tunisia, the species has declined due to overhunting, particularly during the Algerian War, and habitat degradation destruction and direct mortality from anthropogenic forest fires (DSG 1988). In Corsica and Sardinia, C. e. corsicanus declined as a result of hunting (Dolan 1988).C. e. wallichi has declined predominantly as a result of hunting, but also due to pressure from pastoralism (Schaller et al. 1996).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is protected under Appendix III of the Bern Covention. Subspecies C. e. corsicanus is strictly protected under Appendix II of the Bern Convention and Annexes II* and IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive. It occurs in numerous protected areas across its range and also in protected areas outside its range where it has been introduced. To preserve the genetic integrity of local populations, it is important that the introduction of red deer from other areas is stopped, unless there is evidence that they belong to the same taxon (subspecies).

Red deer in Europe have been affected to a large extend by translocations not only between far distant populations and different subspecies within the continent, but also by imported conspecifics from Central Asia and North America, and introduced Sika deer. As a result, most of the present deer populations of Europe are either known hybrids on a subspecific or even specific level or their breeding background is insufficiently known for excluding such a possibility. Systematic investigation into the history and the genetics of all European red deer populations is therefore needed as a base for establishing a European Red Deer Managment Plan. Part of this plan should be the identification of unpolluted autochthonous populations of this species and protection of their genetic integrity, thus preserving as much as possible of what is left of its natural variation.

This species is listed on CITES Appendix I (as Cervus elaphus hanglu), Appendix II (as Cervus elaphus bactrianus) and Appendix III (as Cervus elaphus barbarus [Algeria and Tunisia]).

Citation: Lovari, S., Herrero. J., Conroy, J., Maran, T., Giannatos, G., Stubbe, M., Aulagnier, S., Jdeidi, T., Masseti, M. Nader, I., de Smet, K. & Cuzin, F. 2008. Cervus elaphus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T41785A10541893. . Downloaded on 29 August 2016.
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