Potential case of pseudo-hermaphroditism in Elk (Cervus canadensis) in Alberta, Canada


  • Jacalyn Normandeau University of Alberta
  • Hans Martin University of Montana
  • Evelyn H. Merrill University of Alberta
  • Mark Hebblewhite University of Montana




Hermaphrodite, pseudo-hermaphroditism, Elk, freemartinism, Cervus canadensis, Canada


Cases of true and pseudo-hermaphroditism, in which animals possess both ovaries and testes or have a single chromosomal and gonadal sex but secondary features of the other sex, have been documented in several cervids, including Odocoileus (deer) and Capreolus (roe deer) species. Another form of intersexuality that has been well documented in Domestic Cattle (Bos taurus) and induced in Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) is freemartinism, where blood is shared between heterosexual twins leading to XX/XY chimeras. We report the first case of pseudo-hermaphroditism in wild Elk (Cervus canadensis), observed in the central east slopes of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada, from September through December 2019. The Elk had no antlers, exhibited female external genitalia, and displayed male secondary sexual characteristics, including colouring and breeding behaviour. To determine whether this is a case of true hermaphroditism, pseudo-hermaphroditism, or freemartinism would require blood analysis and inspection of internal sex organs by necropsy.

Author Biographies

Jacalyn Normandeau, University of Alberta

Department of Biological Sciences, Field Technician

Hans Martin, University of Montana

Wildlife Biology Program, PhD Candidate

Evelyn H. Merrill, University of Alberta

Department of Biological Sciences, Professor

Mark Hebblewhite, University of Montana

Wildlife Biology Program, Professor