Bull Elk in Velvet

While photographing at the Neil Smith NWR (near Des Moines, Iowa) a couple of weeks ago, I discovered there were some elk on the refuge. I was aware of a bison herd, but had never heard about or seen any elk. But as I drove the backside of the refuge, I saw a small group of about 6 bull elk grazing along the hillside. They were a long way from the car, but I managed to find a place to pull over and grab a few images. Here are a couple of my favorite:

Bull Elks grazing along the hillside

Bull Elk grazing along the hillside

If you look closely, you will see that the elks’ antlers are covered with a soft, fuzzy-looking material called “velvet”. This material furnishes a blood supply to supply the antlers with nutrients. As the elk’s antlers mature late in the season, this velvet is rubbed off and the antlers harden into “woody-looking” antlers. These mature antlers are sported by the elk to both attract cow elks and also for jousting with other, competing bulls, for rights to maintain and mate with his harem of cows.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 7D Mark II body
  • Canon 100-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens
  • Handheld, with IS “On”
  • ISO 500
  • Aperture f/5.6
  • Shutter 1/1,250 sec.



Posted in Mammals, Nature Photography, Travel Photography
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