Where I am until the end of the month has become a happy feasting ground for elk. After seeing herds of twenty and more at a time up close and in real life, after a few amazing photo-ops, and after realizing that they’re about the size of a real S.U.V., I decided to consult some research sources and add my own observations, first hand. So, no matter what the photos look like, here are a few:
1. Their butts are not bald but very, very furry – in fact, a lovely shade of taupe fluff.
Sources suggest that it's evolutionary evidence that boy elks (who have really bad vision) need a great deal of help finding those sexy girl elks. The taupe butts must be elk language for, “it’s here, stupid!”
2. There’s a big mane of black fuzzy fur around their necks, more on the boys than the girls.
It’s similar to cashmere found on Cashmere goats and better at keeping the elk warm than an L.L.Bean polar fleece scarf.
ecosystem to observe first hand!
So when elk traveled to the lower regions, mountain lions paid a visit to feast on elk. After filling up on elk steaks, elk burgers, and maybe a few chops, the lions retreated fairly satiated. But they’re not the neatest eaters and failed to clean up after themselves. No worries, however! Wolves arrived and tidied up a bit after the mountain lions. It’s a nice feast for wolves.
1. Glad to have two gigantic Rhodesian Ridgebacks, a.k.a. African lion dogs. Big bad lions beware!
2. Coming upon a male elk and his harem feasting on the vestiges of my garden, it was less than a
second before the male lifted his fully racked head in response to the click of my camera.
3. When a male elk lifts his antler-adorned head to look in my direction, retreating backwards into
my car or house is definitely a prudent idea!
4. A grown elk really is about the size of a Dodge Durango or Jeep Cherokee!
North American Elk, or Cervus elaphus, are split by some biologists into six subspecies:
• Rocky Mountain (Rocky Mountain West, now transplanted to other locations) – largest antlers of
• Roosevelt's (Coastal Pacific Northwest)
– largest in body size of all subspecies, but not antler size
• Tule (Central California) – smallest body size of all subspecies
• Manitoban (northern Great Plains)
• Merriam's (Southwest and Mexico) - Extinct
Eastern (east of the Mississippi) – Extinct
• Only male elk have antlers
• Bulls shed and grow a new set of antlers every year
• New antlers are covered in fuzzy skin called velvet
• Antlers harden by late summer and the velvet peels away
• By September, antlers are solid bone
• A set of antlers on a mature bull can weigh up to 40 pounds
• When alarmed, elk raise their heads high, open eyes wide, move stiffly rotating their ears to listen.
• If a harem cow wanders, the bull stretches his neck low, tips his nose, tilts antlers back to circle her.
• Elk threaten each other by curling back their upper lip, grinding their teeth and hissing.
• Agitated elk hold their heads high, flatten ears back and flare nostrils, sometimes punch with their
And the amazing thing is that elk talk. They’re known to be among the noisiest ungulates,
communicating danger loudly and identifying each other by sound. Their favorite times to
talk to one another seems to be sometime around 2:00-3:00 a.m. lately!