(Well, about a five minute drive from my backyard, but that’s close enough…)
Those seven butts you see there? Elk! On a walk earlier today I came across a band of 11 juvenile male elk grazing on some of my community’s local open space land.
I kept my distance,* but was able to capture some beautiful shots.
Most people are used to seeing elk (Cervus canadensis) up in the mountains, but historically they’re a plains species. Like the bison, deer and pronghorn, elk were herbivores of the prairies. It wasn’t until the 1800s, when Europeans continued to settle the American west and convert prairie into farmland, that elk and other large grazers were pushed up into the foothills and mountains.
Today, several corridors have been created by patchworking together public and private land to create pathways for elk and other animals to move from the mountains to the high plains, and I live in one of them.
These elk were being so still that I didn’t even notice them until one began to bugle.
Note: Do NOT learn how to imitate an elk bugling. Or, if you must, promise never to practice around other elk. The last thing you want to do is convince a large, hooved and antlered animal that you’re competition to his baby-making plans.
For most of the year, elk segregate themselves into single-sex groups. These young males (you can tell they’re male because they have antlers, and you can tell they’re young because the antlers are still pretty puny by elk-standards) will stick together until it’s mating time in the fall, and then they’ll compete with one another (and with males MUCH bigger than they are) for the available females.
A successful male will end up with a harem (of often over 20 females), and unsuccessful males will hang around the edges of the harems, trying to sneak some elk-lovin’ when the dominant male isn’t looking. And they’ll urinate all over themselves, because apparently that’s what keeps the ladies coming back.
But, seriously, with tushes like those, what lady wouldn’t want to join one of their harems?
*And why did I keep my distance?
You don’t mess with wild animals. Especially eau d’ urine scented ones (and especially when you’ve already stepped in their poo).