Conjuring-Reality-Logo

Imagination Conjuring Reality

D.K. Wall

Imagination Conjuring Reality

Large Bull Elk Bugling

Elk in Cataloochee Valley

Last Monday morning (Sept 14) was our coldest morning of the fall, so I thought it would be a great morning to drive over at sunrise to Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for some elk viewing. September and October are rut season for the Elk, so the bulls are busy gathering and defending their cows.

Large Bull Elk Bugling
Large Bull Elk Bugling

The large bull pictured above was the dominant male that I saw that morning. He had a impressive harem of cows and none of the other males were within his sight. The bugling is to attract cows and to advertise his dominance to the other bulls. The sound is much higher pitched than you would expect from such a large animal.

He shepherded his herd across the road at one point, proving that even elk think the grass is greener on the other side.

Proof that the grass is always greener on the other side
Proof that the grass is always greener on the other side

During the crossing, the bull positioned himself so that he could monitor the photographers and protect his cows. For the safety of the elk and the photographers, photographers are required to remain at least 150 feet away from the elk. Beyond the distance rule, humans are not allowed to disturb the elk in any way. During certain times of year (rutting season and calving season), humans are also required to stay on the road and out of the fields. For these reasons, a good zoom lens is an absolute requirement to be able to get photographs like these that are close up, but we are actually a good distance away.

 

The bull monitored the photographers until his herd was safely across the road.
The bull monitored the photographers until his herd was safely across the road.

 

And crossed the road once they were safe.
And crossed the road once they were safe.

Did see one calf in the Herd. The calf always remained in the center of the herd and was well protected from any potential threats. The first picture was just as they were preparing the cross the road and the cows were forming a circle around the calf. Once across, the calf sought out breakfast.

The lone calf in the herd was always near the center and well protected by the others.
The lone calf in the herd was always near the center and well protected by the others.

 

Just checking for breakfast, mom.
Just checking for breakfast, mom.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, the elk settled down in a field with the bull carefully watching his herd.

In the lower left, you can see the biggest bull of the morning watching his cows sprawled under the tree.
In the lower left, you can see the biggest bull of the morning watching his cows sprawled under the tree.

Further down the road, I found three males – two obviously very young – who had attracted no cows. They were play fighting – preparing for a future year when they would be bigger, stronger, and more able to build their own herd. The third bull was obviously older and stronger, but not strong enough yet to challenge the bigger bull elks with herds.

Two young elk practicing their fighting.
Two young elk practicing their fighting.

 

The third bull - larger and older - also practiced fighting with the younger bulls.
The third bull – larger and older – also practiced fighting with the younger bulls.
Notice the young bull on the right has broken one antler.
Notice the young bull on the right has broken one antler.

In the last of these pictures, note that you can clearly see that one of the elk has a broken antler. The elk shed their antlers every year, so he will have new antlers next fall.

5 thoughts on “Elk in Cataloochee Valley”

  1. Pictures are amazing! The elk are so beautiful, starting next year they will be reintroduced into West Virginia, but I think down south, near the KY line (we are mid/eastern state).

    Looking forward to more of your pictures. I trained in photography at the Willoughby Fine Arts School back in 1975/76/77. I love it, but do not have my equipment any more. Are you using all digital? I used film cameras and had a dark room to print in!

    Best wishes,
    Donna

Leave a Comment

More Photography

Timelapse Photography

Latest Book Read

C.J. Box: Open Season

C.J. Box: Open Season

October 2, 2019 | 0
WP RSS Plugin on WordPress