Handling Wapiti animals

Handling Wapiti animals

The basics of good deer handling apply to all species of deer, i.e. good stock sense, plenty of patience, and good observance to deer temperament, behaviours and stress levels. Details can be found in the mustering section.
However, Wapiti deer have some behavioural idiosyncrasies that differ to the Red deer species, these are discussed below.

See the Elk Wapiti website for some great information and videos on handling Wapiti animals 

How to handle Wapiti herds...how do they differ to Red Deer?
Wapiti are much larger than Red deer, and some people can become intimidated by their size. However Wapiti can be mustered or treated in the shed facilities without too much effort if they are regularly handled by experienced people.

Handling Wapiti in the yards

  • Wapiti are intelligent animals and possess a curious nature. They can appear very relaxed in a paddock situation and respond well to human contact in the paddock. However Wapiti can become difficult to handle in a yard situation that is not set up well.
  • Wapiti do not like to be in small or confined spaces. They also dislike it if there is no impression of flow out of the yards. This can lead to nervousness in some animals, and possible complete stubbornness where the animal refuses to move, or respond to handler pressure. Therefore a flow-through system with no blind corners should be provided to give the impression of flow through the yards, to the outside. Good flow is also important in Red Deer sheds, but Red deer appear to be more relaxed in confined areas, and small spaces.
  • Overhead walkways in Wapiti sheds are not recommended as the animals usually just stand and look at the handler (usually in an obstinate and stubborn manner)!
  • Hydraulic crushes are recommended for farmers with Wapiti stock due to their size and weight.

Handling Wapiti fawning mobs and stags
Wapiti fawning mobs should be viewed cautiously as Wapiti cows can be extremely protective of their newborn fawns for the first few days after birth. Red deer hinds are not usually aggressive at fawning, however some individuals are more likely to leave or abandon their fawns if spooked (although this depends on the temperament of the cow).

Experienced Wapiti farmers suggest that dogs should never be used on Wapiti bull, due to their aggressive behaviour to dogs. 

Key information
As with all deer species the key to owning a deer herd of well behaved animals with good temperament is to:

  • Actively select animals based on behaviour and temperament, cull those that are aggressive or dangerous.
  • Start handling animals when they are very young. Deer become used to the routine of being handled, and it is a form of training. It is very important to start this training/handling process with procedures that are not unpleasant. See age issues for tips on this.
  • Identify those animals that are the 'trouble makers' in the mob. These are normally the animals that are the repeat offenders and continually defy, are badly behaved, aggressive, and get progressively worse behaved when handled or mustered.