The first Wapiti Wednesday of the season following my first captures of these mountain residents this past weekend.
Driving through the Kawuneeche Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park I came across a good sized herd of cows and calves enjoying the cool, damp weather. Most were not interested in me at all but this little one couldn’t hide its curiosity.
As I kneeled and started to snap pictures, it was intently focused on me, keeping close watch and no doubt wondering why I had interest in it. This year’s newborns are growing fast and as you can tell, starting to lose their spots.
Elk are one the of the largest members of the deer family. Native Americans called them ‘wapiti’ or light colored deer. The animals once had a wide range across North America but hunting and human influences now have them primarily found across the western parts of the continent.
One for Wapiti Wednesday and a throwback to mid-September. At lower elevations in Rocky Mountain National Park, conditions were mild and pleasant. However, as I neared the top of Old Fall River Road, the weather conditions changed considerably.
At first it was just a few snowflakes but soon I was seeing accumulated snow on the ground, the temperature plummeted and the winds picked up. Near the top, just below the visitors center, a number of elk were hanging out including this young one.
The winds created near whiteout conditions and in fact, actually resulted in Trail Ridge Road being closed for a time stranding me on the wrong side of the park! It was quite an experience but kind of fun in a way.
The annual Elk rut is over and they have settled down and are preparing for a long, cold winter. This image was taken back in the middle of September at the height of the mating season.
While this bull looked and sounded quite impressive as he patrolled the hills, the ladies either weren’t very taken with him or he was not as good of a fighter as you might guess from his looks. There was only one cow in the area and she was doing her best to avoid him. I guess looks aren’t everything. 😉
Closeup of Elk bull keeping watch on his harem. Taken a couple of weeks ago, this big fella had his harem of 10 near Mary’s Lake in Estes Park, away from any real competition. That allowed him to enjoy a quiet evening by the lake with the ladies, something we all would enjoy. 😉
In front of the eye you may notice the ‘preorbital gland’. Elk, deer and a lot of other hoofed animals have them. These scent glands secrete pheromones and other chemicals. They then will rub their faces on bushes and tree branches, commonly believed as a way of marking their territory.
We spent the weekend in Estes Park, Colorado, touring Rocky Mountain National Park each day. Photo opportunities were a bit rare for me but yesterday evening this one came along not a quarter mile from our campsite. A bull had himself a nice little harem and this young one was hanging out with its mom.
My wife and I spent a good while sitting in the rain just enjoying the scene. You can definitely tell the weather is changing with the seasons as there was a notable chill in the air and snow on many of the peaks, particularly above timberline.
With hormones raging, the Elk rut is in full swing and the males are doing their best to gather up their harems. This particular guy, while a good-sized specimen for sure, was not having much luck.
He was relegated to an area far away from the main herds and was chasing a single cow. Despite his best strutting and bugling, she showed little interest and spurned the overtures.
We sometimes call these creatures Wapiti, a word that comes from the Shawnee and Cree word ‘waapiti’ which means ‘white rump.’ They are one of the largest members of the deer family in North America, second only to Moose.
One for Wapiti Wednesday that was taken this past Saturday in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The rut is still a few weeks away but you can get a sense that it is getting closer if you watch the behavior of the Elk bulls. This pair and a couple more were hanging out and seemingly getting along (for now) but they did engage in a small hint of what is to come.
The larger one on the right raised his head and closed in on the slightly smaller one, posing a bit of a challenge to it. It never went any further than that but you know the time is coming where these two will do battle for the affections of the ladies.
It’s been a while since I have posted any pics of these guys and even longer since I took a picture of one. This past weekend’s trip though gave me the opportunity to see a lot of them. The herds are all quiet now, enjoying the cool, spring weather. The males are sporting their growing, velvet-covered antlers while the females tend to the calves that were just born. Soon, may will be heading for higher altitudes to escape the heat and bugs. The name Wapiti comes from Native Americans meaning ‘light colored deer.’
One for Wapiiti Wednesday! Taken back in September at the height of the annual Elk rut. This was the start of one of the most amazing 15 minutes I have ever spent with these creatures. Two bulls, each with their own harem, were at opposite ends of a meadow.
Their close proximity to each other had them uneasy and one simply could not resist challenging the other. Bugling from opposite sides, the combatants slowly worked their way toward a meeting in the middle. Here, one of the two, sounds a warning that he was ready for battle – and indeed he was. They would soon engage in an epic clash unlike any I had ever witnessed. You can see the entire sequence here.
Taking a break from guarding his harem, this massive bull Elk stopped by to check on the most recent generation of the herd. It was a very cute, tender moment as he and the two calves enjoyed a moment of peace from the rut, a dramatic and tension-filled time of year.
We sometimes call these creatures Wapiti, a word that comes from the Shawnee and Cree word ‘waapiti’ which means ‘white rump.’ There are one of the largest members of the deer family in North America, second only to Moose.
Taken on September 16, 2016 in the Moraine Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park.