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)
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.
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!
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