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.
A very large bull Elk sticks his tongue out toward some of the crowd that had stopped to watch it. We happened upon this big guy in Jasper National Park near Talbot Lake. For the most part he kept his head down and grazed but I managed a few shots when he would look up.
Back from a fantastic weekend in Colorado’s high country and while the primary purpose of the trip was camping with the family, I managed to find a good number of critters to photograph as well.
First up is this precious little one that provided me with not only a lot of pics, but also a huge smile on my face. So cute! This was taken just inside the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Heads or tails? No reason to pick given the pose this bull Elk gave me. 😉
Taken early one morning along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park on July 27. This big fella and two of his buddies were grazing alongside the road.
The Bow Valley Parkway has a reputation of being the wildlife ‘hotspot’ in the park. We however came away disappointed after having driven it eight times at all different times of day over a span of four days. A few deer and elk were all we were able to see. No doubt it is a matter of luck and timing but it sure was frustrating.
It didn’t take long after arriving at our first destination in the Canadian Rockies to find wildlife. In fact, it found us. Nine Elk cows and four very cute calves came walking right through our campground. The ladies were certainly pretty but needless to say, it was the little ones that stole the show. This particular one proved to be the most photogenic of the youth giving me many fantastic poses including this look of it sniffing at the grass and a piece of wood.