The Harem

Today’s post features the elk rut and the bull elk’s “harem”. For anyone not having experienced the annual elk rut, it is a very complex and interesting thing to view. As the rut approaches in Rocky Mountain NP (outside Estes Park, Colorado) elk of both sexes start congregating in the meadows and nearby woods.

The adult bulls will begin to “bugle”, or emit a high-pitched sound that sounds eerily like a bugling sound. The reason for this behavior is twofold: (1) to challenge other bulls, and (2) to show dominance over his accumulated cows (aka, the “harem”). A bull’s harem may consist of a few cows, or up to 50-60 cows, depending on the age/size of the bull and his ability to charm the cows to his group.

Here are a few images I captured early in the morning of a bull elk and his small harem of 10-12 calves, and a few calves from spring:

A bull elk with his harem

A bull elk with his harem

Bull elk bugling with a cow/calf in his harem

In the last image, the bull is seen bugling (another bull was nearby and the 2 bulls were bugling, back and forth). In another post, I’ll share some closeup elk bugling and some video I captured of the bugling bulls.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF500mm, f/4 IS lens + Canon 1.4x TC, resulting in 700mm
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with Wemberly (Version 1) gimbal head
  • ISO 800
  • Aperture f/5.6
  • Shutter 1/50 sec. to 1/100 sec.



Posted in Mammals, Nature Photography, Travel Photography
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