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Wapiti / Elk / Fiordland Deer

cervus elaphus nelsoni

Male: Bull
Female: Cow
Young: Calf

Wapiti are the largest round-horned deer in the world and are closely related to red deer.


Bulls have a shoulder height of up to 1.5m and weigh 300–450kg; Cows grow up to 1.3m and 200–270kg


The winter coat is yellowish to brownish grey, the underside blackish and the head, neck and legs are dark chestnut brown. The rump patch is large, uniformly cream coloured and bordered with dark brown (this is a key difference from red deer). In summer the coat is a more tawny, reddish or light bay colour, with dark legs.


Similar to red deer but larger and heavier (over 1.3metres and 18 kg) and usually paler in colour. Antlers are only carried by bulls and are grown and cast annually. They reach maximum size at about 7 years old.

Rifle and calibre

Because wapiti are large deer and often shot at long range, hunters should use a flat-trajectory calibre that has a high striking energy at 300 metres. The .308 is a minimum, with high-powered calibres such as the .300WSM very popular.

Record Trophy

474 6/8 Douglas Score taken by Edger Nitz at Glaisnock Valley, Fiordland in 1933. This trophy is on display at the Hunting Museum.

Record Book Qualification

380 Douglas Score.

Wapiti Ballot

Every year the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation offers a wilderness wapiti bugle ballot.