Sunday, November 10, 2013

Our Elk Adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park



When my husband and I went on our first visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in mid September, it was the beginning of the elk mating season, called the "rut". This brief time of the year is when the male elk winners in the reproductive game are separated from the losers . The elk rut is more exciting to see than other members of the deer family. Bull elk go all out to show their worth to the cow elks.  His antler size shows his age and strength, and the volume and pitch of his bugle determines how far it can be heard.  These attributes are used to attract the elk cows. He collects a harem of cows and defends them from other bulls.  It is an exciting spectacle to see, and we were hoping we'd see at least one bull elk during our visit to the park, and hear him bugle.


We read that the elk are most active in the evening through the night, so we entered the park in the early evening the first day we arrived, and drove to one of the popular elk viewing areas.


Moraine Park is a valley formed by the Thompson glacier, and is a popular grazing area for the elk. 

(This photo, and all photos in this post, including the photo collages, can be enlarged for easier viewing by clicking on them)

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As we drove along one road in the valley we were stopped by a parade of female cows that were descending from a mountain side..


One by one they came down in a long line, as we watched and took photos.


Finally, the Bull elk appeared. He looked right at us but seemed unperturbed. I was happy I was safely seated in my car! A Bull elk's antlers can weigh up to 40 pounds, and this one looked massive.


After glancing our way a few minutes he ran off to join his harem in the meadow. If you notice, one of the elk cows is wearing a collar, which means she is being tracked by the park rangers. This is done as part of a study to determine migration and health of the animals.


Another look at his magnificent antler rack!



We then drove off to another popular elk viewing area in the park...


....Horseshoe Park, again a valley formed by a giant glacier long ago.


Here we saw this big boy, sitting leisurely in the meadow, chewing his cud.


I am using a power zoom lens to get these photos as we were standing a safe distance away from him.


All of a sudden the bull elk stood up and started to move quickly towards his harem of cows.


In the photo collage above you can see the cow harem in the upper left, another, younger bull elk approaching in the bottom left, and the big bull charging in the upper right.


The older bull elk chased the younger bull away, as you can see in the series of photos above. (Click on to enlarge) Afterwards he let out a very loud bugle.  He made sure his harem knew he was the boss.  It was an exciting spectacle to witness!


We were very happy to have witnessed this act of nature in this spectacular setting!  Rocky Mountain National Park is truly a national treasure.


Our elk adventures were not over for the day, however, as we met this enormous bull elk in the middle of a street median in Estes Park ...if you missed that post, go here.


Wishing everyone in the USA a very Happy Veteran's Day! 

May we recognize and honor the brave sacrifice of those who have served in our country's military -- all gave some, some gave all. Freedom is not free, and I thank all veterans who have helped to preserve our freedoms!


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38 comments:

Pamela Gordon said...

Fantastic photos of these beautiful creatures, Pat! It was great that you got to see them so close and watch the ritual of power going on in the herd. Thanks for sharing. Have a great week.

eileeninmd said...

Cool post on the Rocky Mountain elk. The male and the antlers are amazing. It must have been neat to hear him bugling. The mountain scenery is gorgeous. Loved the photos, thanks for sharing. Have a happy week ahead, Pat!

Sam Hoffer @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

What gorgeous scenery and how fun to see that big guy. I've seen moose but never elk. Thanks for taking us along Pat. Hope you are having a wonderful weekend.
Sam

Snap said...

I think I've already shared with you that my totem animal is the elk (left over from my days in NM). I loved each and every image you shared. Bugle on! :)

xx

Bill Nicholls said...

That looked like some spectacle to see I have to admit, about all I see round here are a few red deer

Old Kitty said...

Oh those male elks and their big antlers!! What magnificent creatures!!! I'm sort of glad the older elk got to keep his harem! LOL! The young usurpers gotta try harder next time! :-)

Ah that wonderful unique male elk call!! Take care
x

The Gathering Place said...

How exciting to be so close to the elk. That looked like a wonderful place to watch the animals (and safely inside a car)!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

What a wonderful post, Pat! These pictures are spectacular!

xoxoxox

Sheila

Lynn@Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

Sounds like you had an exciting day Pat! You don't see that in NYC:@)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

They are magnificent.

From the Kitchen said...

What an awesome adventure! And, what magnificent animals. I would have kept a safe distance too.

Best,
Bonnie

Vee said...

Very impressive! You managed lots of wonderful photos.

Pallavi said...

Lovely pictures Pat. The bull elk looks so regal. Thanks for sharing :)

pam said...

Great pictures. They must have great neck muscles to hold those things up.

Lavender Cottage said...

Well, you weren't disappointed and got to see lots of elk. I hope you were able to hear them too.
Thanks for sharing your photos, I enjoyed them.
Judith

A Garden of Threads said...

Thank you for sharing that amazing adventure. It must have so exciting to see live. Hoping for a blessed week for you.

diane b said...

That must be an awesome experience to see the elks at this time. The males are really big and scary. The scenery as always on your posts is beautiful.

Cheryl @ TFD said...

The scenery is just so beautiful and so are your photos of the elk! I always wonder how they hold their heads up with those heavy antlers. :)

Ola said...

so many of them in one place! amazing country!

podso said...

Beautiful, proud animals .. you've caught them beautifully on camera. Nature is fascinating! Thanks for an interesting post!

La Petite Gallery said...

These are great photo's, I have never seen that many of them. They are truly Majestic creatures.
The Mountains are gorgeous.

Have a happy Vet's Day. I have to check that they have a flag on my husbands grave. Maybe snow today. yvonne

Barbara said...

Absolutely remarkable! We have never hit it right on our autumn visits to see and hear the elk bugle. Your blog posts about the elk are thrilling. God's creation is astounding. Thank you for sharing this with us!!

Cindy said...

What an exciting trip that must have been. I have only seen one elk in the wilds of Canada before. We tend to have more deer and moose and in the northern regions we have caribou. I know there are some elk around though.
I would love to see the little scenarios that you have described. How fun that you and your hubby take the time to do these road trips. That is something that my hubby and I would definitely be doing too.
Have a good week!!

Betsy Adams said...

Oh how I love seeing the elks. We have seen them at RMNP and also at Yellowstone --during rutting season. Have you heard them bugle???? NEAT sound…

There was an angry bull elk at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone in Sept of 2012 --and he was chasing stupid people who got too close. We were safely away --but watching him. SCARY!!!

Hugs,
Betsy

ellen b. said...

Those are amazing creatures and how cool to see so many of them.

Linda said...

What a great post and such awesome photos!! These pics look like they belong in a nature magazine!!

Kat Mortensen said...

Looks like "big boy" is enjoying a bit of afterglow.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Wow Pat, that was quite a spectacle and you got some terrific shots. What a wonderful sight!

backroadjournal said...

What a wonderful place to experience some the glories of nature. I know you are enjoying your new life as you live in a beautiful part of our country.

ladyfi said...

So many elks - such gorgeous shots!

Andrea said...

Wow, that is such an informative post. I haven't seen a real elk, i guess they are as big as real cattles? I guess it would be depressing to see them fighting with those headgears entwined and possibly cracking!

And, thank you so much for visiting my post and your concern for our people. It trully is an appreciated gesture of love, God bless you.

Betty Luckhurst said...

What a great place and I love to see these magnificent creatures. Thanks for sharing all the info and photos.

Indrani said...

So much about elks! I have seen them only in zoos. Great post with info and pictures.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Well you got to see some exciting things. Great job on taking the photographers.

Christian WeiƟ said...

Beautiful photos and a great place to stay.

Jim said...

Awesome captures.

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

Magnificent animals and great photos.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Beautiful photos. Thank you for them and for the memories ...I am hearing elk bugling in my head now! Agree RMNP is amazing.