Rutting Elk in the Bow Valley
A small herd of bull elk were gathered near Moose Meadows on the Bow Valley Parkway when I was there on the weekend. The frost bleached the grass and the cold air made the breath visible.
These were mature adults with massive antlers and they were putting them to use. The rut is on and these elk were challenging each other repeatedly.
They would be eating grass and then stare at another one. Soon after, they would stalk slowly towards each other and lock antlers. Once entwined, a push and a pull fight would take place. Unlike Bighorn sheep battles where they smash into each other, these were shoving matches.
It was a cold morning which made for a particularly appealing scene to watch these giants battle. The elk below was noticeably larger than the others and only one bull challenged him in the half hour that I watched. That contest seemed like more of a measuring stick for the smaller one as it was short and there was no real challenge.
He wandered off after a while heading for the trees and leaving the others to graze and continue the odd skirmish.
Young rams at play… and practice
On one of our morning drives, Kian and I came across a few Bighorn rams on the Akamina Parkway near Cameron Lake in the Waterton National Park. These were adolescents, not the adult males which will battle for the attention of the ewes in the fall. Nonetheless, a couple of them were practicing their rutting between grazing on the roadside vegetation.
When the big boys crash their horns together it can echo across a valley. These battles didn’t carry that kind of power but it was great action with no lack of enthusiasm. We were able to watch three battles and my son and I both loved watching, and hearing, the collisions.
I do wonder if concussions are a problem as they are with human contact sports.
Fighting in the fields
I was roaming the gravel roads east of south of Cochrane on the weekend. As dusk started to fall, I found a small herd of white-tailed deer in the middle of a field. There were two bucks standing apart from four does. The smaller male was prancing about a bit so I put on my longest lens and waited to see if anything would happen. We are still in the middle of the rut so I was hoping they might do some antler jousting.
And, as it turned out, they did. They clashed a couple of times with antlers cracking while they tangled head to head. The battle was short, frenetic and I felt very lucky to watch this moment play out.
After this skirmish the smaller one darted away and they stood apart for a minute before moving up a fold in the hillside back towards the seemingly unimpressed does.