What You'll See:
In this sequence, you'll see a herd bull trying to maintain a harem of cows while scent-checking and "courting" a cow that is likely close to coming into peak estrous. You'll also see, and hear, several other bulls in the immediate area chasing cows, trying to steal the primary herd bull's cows, and bugling in order to locate and/or attract other cows that are coming into estrous.
Setting the Stage:
This sequence was filmed the third week of September, and you’ll see in fairly short order that at least one cow was close to coming into estrous, and—based on the level of activity—probably more than one. At some point during the previous night, either one large harem of cows or several harems of cows made their way out into the meadow to feed. While the herd bull(s) accompanied them, so did a number of satellite bulls. By daybreak, multiple mature bulls had all converged on this meadow, doing their best to capitalize on the cow(s) getting ready to breed.
As a side note, it’s hard to say whether we were witnessing the “peak” of the rut in this area or the tail end of it. The "Elk Breeding Behavior" video that you see in the “Early September” portion of the Gallery was filmed on September 9th in this same general area, so breeding had been going on for at least two weeks prior to this sequence being filmed. Nevertheless, this was one of those magical mornings where the bulls were going crazy running all over the place bugling, chasing cows, sparring... you name it!
Viewing / Listening Tips:
This sequence provides a valuable lesson in the importance of observing animals in order to ascertain the type of vocalizations they're making and the meaning behind what they're saying (as opposed to just "listening" to them). As such, throughout the video, Chris provides both verbal and written commentary to help you identify and understand the various scenarios as they arise.
Like in the other Gallery videos, vocalizations labeled in parenthesis are those made by animals OFF-SCREEN, with vocalizations without parenthesis being made by animals ON-SCREEN. Similarly, to aid in hearing the subtle vocalizations, listening is best done through headphones or earbuds.
Also, the fence you see in the foreground throughout this sequence is a vegetation exclosure designed to keep elk out of certain areas to aid in aspen and willow recovery. So many elk use the lower parks and meadows in this area throughout the year (especially winter) that the aspens and willow communities have been significantly over-browsed and have been unable to regenerate. As such, to protect plant communities and allow aspen and willow to come back in many places, large fenced exclosures were erected in certain areas to keep deer and elk out. While you'll be looking "through" the exclosure fence throughout the sequence, keep in mind that the elk are on the back side of the fence, out in the open park, with Kelly filming over the top of the exclosure. Like all our videos, these are wild, free-ranging elk, engaging in their natural behavior.
Levels 1 & 2 Contact Bugles, Levels 2 & 3 Dominant Bugles, Check Bugles, Glunks/Glunking, Huffs/Huffing, Groans, Excited Chuckles, Lost Mews, Cow Mews, and Chirps