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.
One of a sequence of images that I still have to pinch myself to believe I captured. While the rest of my crew opted to sleep in, I headed out for a hike on a crisp, high country September morning, lugging my camera along as always. I didn’t have to go far before an action-packed scene began to unfold.
In a nearby meadow, two bulls had gathered their harems, one at each end. Not content with simply keeping the females they had, the bulls opted to challenge each other for control of the groups. An epic battle ensued as the two immense creatures put their heads down, locked antlers and clashed. Here, the larger of the two, pushes back his smaller rival, lifting the smaller one off its back feet as it drove its head toward the ground.
It was an amazing experience, one of my favorite wildlife encounters of all time. You can check out the entire sequence of images from the battle here.
From one of my favorite wildlife events – the annual Elk rut in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. With the changing of the seasons, fall also brings on mating season for these high country residents. For weeks the males work themselves into a frenzy, gathering up all the females they can into harems and then fighting to control their ladies and earn the right to mate with them. With hormones raging, the bulls bugle to call the females and to ward off any potential challengers.
On this morning back in September, this bull had gathered a harem of about 15 cows. A second bull in the area though was threatening and this first bull was doing his best to ensure he left them alone.
Certainly we are told to not talk when you have a mouth full of food but for a Elk bull during the rut when his hormones are raging the infraction might be forgiven. 😉
This big guy found himself without any ladies on the morning of October 2nd. He however was not giving up on the opportunity to pass his genes on. One of his rivals had a nice size harem near by and this guy was keeping close watch, making lots of noise, just waiting for the opportunity to steal away some of the cows.
Taken in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Well, he may not be enjoying being a bachelor but this big guy found himself alone and without a harem. He was hanging out in the rarified air near the top of Trail Ridge Road which reaches an altitude of 12,183 feet. There were actually three bulls up there, one did have a nice little harem of a half dozen ladies all to himself.
The annual rut is winding down now and it is showing on the males. It was clear that they were far less active than in recent weeks and seemed to be less likely to challenge other bulls.
While there were no battles on the evening I took this image, it was certainly obvious the Elk rut was in full swing. This bull had gathered himself 30 or so cows and calves in the Moraine Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. He was unchallenged and made lots of noise to make sure it stayed that way. Here he stands over two calves as he bugles, perhaps teaching them how to be top dogs themselves in the future. 😉
With fall quickly approaching, rut season for Elk is here and with their hormones raging, battles between the males are getting more intense. I was extremely fortunate to witness one duel and better yet, get pictures of it.
Two bulls had their harems gathered at opposite ends of a small meadow and while you would think they would be content with what they had, one was not. He started approaching the other group which enraged the second bull. They met in the middle of the meadow, initially circling at a distance, clearly sizing each other up.
Slowly they approached each other, raising their heads to the other, keeping close watch. Suddenly, their heads went down and they charged! Back and forth they shoved, swinging their massive antlers trying to stab their opponent and push them down. Dirt was flying and the sound of the clash added an audio component that really helped drive home the point that these are massive, powerful animals.
For a time, it looked like it would be a draw but the bigger, second Elk fended off the challenger, chasing him away. Adding insult to injury, he took the other bull’s harem of 20 or so cows and added it to his own leaving the challenger with nothing for all of his work. I cannot begin to describe how exciting it was to witness this.
While I have seen Elk challenge each other, those never resulted in any actual physical contact. I had never witnessed a fight like this one and still get giddy when I think about it. So much fun!
Taken in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Scroll down to view the complete battle series.
Waking early one morning in Jasper National Park, I emerged from my RV to find this beautiful lady right there. She was cautious and moved around to the opposite side of a tree but was also curious and hungry. Sticking her head out from the other side, she continued to graze and I of course watched while enjoying a beautiful morning in the northern Rocky Mountains.