Wandering Elk


Recently, I had my first daylight sighting of two bull Elk who sauntered past midmorning with what appeared to be a breeding harem of maybe two dozen cows and calves.

During Fall mating season, Elk are polygamous. A mature male Elk (bull) will court and mate with many cows while protecting his breeding harem of cows (and their existing calves) from all other bulls. However, this local group of Rocky Mountain Elk had two large males with similarly well-developed antlers travelling together. I do not know why.
group of elk with 2 bull elk and 3 cows

The Elk group headed towards the nearby river and proceeded to slough through chilly water to arrive at a large flood plain on the far side of the channel. After they crossed, some began grazing on woody plants, grasses and leaves. But other Elk seemed to keep looking downstream and calling out.

Elk are social animals and it became quickly clear that some stragglers had waded to a small downstream island, rather than fully crossing the river. After much vocalizing, this wandering cow and calf began crossing the rest of the river in an effort to rejoin their larger family group.
two cow Elk crossing river

This Wapiti bull unwaveringly watched the wading wanderers. 
bull Elk with 5 to 6 point antlers

Meanwhile, at the other end of the flood plain, it appeared that a calf was nursing.
cow appears to nurse calves

I say appeared, because I’ve learned that our Rocky Mountain Elk calves tend to be born in May or June and weaned in the Fall. So, December seems rather late for nursing. Maybe this was just several minutes of intense sniffing or licking? If you are an Elkpert, I welcome your insights.


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8 Responses to Wandering Elk

  1. Jean Simpson says:

    A wonderful sequence of photos. Thank you Alistair

  2. Sarah says:

    I feel educated about elk speaking in eliterations 🙂

  3. Lynn says:

    Fantastic sequence of photos and commentary, Cynthia. Thank you very much for this gift. Happy Holidays to all of you in the West Kootenay region.

  4. Gail Frampton says:

    Beautiful photos Cynthia- Thank you

  5. Erik McDoonough says:

    Fantastic, Cynthia! Thank you :0)

  6. peter bartl says:

    Thank you Alistair for all those wonderful pix thruout the year!!
    Wishing you and Dorothy continued creativity in the coming year.
    – peter bartl

  7. Douglas Thorburn says:

    Beautiful light on the elk! Such a treat to see a herd roaming around by daylight, especially with the bulls and their photogenic antlers!

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