Relatively speaking, it started out easier for the elk this winter. Not as cold and less snow on the ground. They still had to eat the same less nutritious food, no greens in the winter. But less snow to move aside to get at the food and less energy needed to get through the milder days and nights. But all that changed, snow storms started to come through and February brought with it much colder temperatures. Just like these three bulls, they have to spend more energy moving lots more snow to get at the less nutritious food and as well, losing lots more energy to survive the colder days and nights. Until spring arrives, they will be getting weaker, while their predators get stronger.
How time flies, it's that time of the year again. On Saturday, February the 2nd I'll be doing a slideshow presentation at the Cave and Basin NHS. Going over some of my favourite nature pictures from 2018 and the stories that go along with them. For $4.90 come spend couple of warm hours, from 7 to 9pm, sitting back and looking at flora, fauna and landscapes photos from the past year.
The rut season is over, the elk are taking advantage of the mild weather to gain weight. Particularly important for the dominant bulls. who lost 20 to 30 percent of their weight battling other bulls. The more weight the bulls gain, easier it will be getting through the winter.
The decibel level of elk bugling is 90 dB at 4 meters, lawnmower and food blender are two items that have similar sound levels. I have heard the bugling as far as 1 km away, with elk's larger ears, they would be able to hear the bugling from even further distance. this is important for the females who want to mate with a stronger male and help keeps weaker males away. Over 85 dB can lead to damage for human ears, another reason for us humans to keep our distance from wildlife. The recommend safe distance from elk i at least 30 meters. at that distance the bugling sound level comes to 72.5 dB. Close to the sound level when you're using a vacuum.
I came across this bull elk during a snow storm. I saw him with a small harem, away from any other males that might challenge him. He was still bugling, letting others know the harem was his.
The rut season is full on, the bulls can be head calling out throughout the Bow Valley. Here’s one of the bull with its harem I have been able to watch. The bull working to keep his harem together, calling out to attract more females and keep lesser males away. Still few weeks to go for the rut season, still time for other bulls to challange.
Living in Banff National Park, nature is never far away. A bull elk hanging out at the rec grounds with a rainbow from of Mount Rundle.
A picture of a bull elk taken few weeks back, busy eating in the Bow Valley. Busy gaining weight and growing its antlers for the rut season that will start in late August.
In the morning I came across half a dozen elk, among them a new born calf, staying close to its mother. On the other side of elk were friends who were returning from bird watching, all getting to see a 15 to 16 kg calf, covered with spots. The mother was still licking the calf, trying to remove all sent that would give away the calf’s location to the predators. The mother was locating a secure spot for the calf, until it was ready to be able to run away from danger. Around the calving season there are more bear sighting in the area, all looking for an opportunity to locate a defenceless calf. Other predators join in as well, just minutes before this picture was taken, a female coyote was in the area, sent running by the elk. Soon after the mother took the calf into think vegetation, where the calf could rest, be nursed and kept safe.
This bull elk is facing a few challenges throughout the winter, main ones deal with the winter season, the cold temperatures and the amount of fallen snow. Using more energy if it's colder and more energy to get at the low quality food through the fallen snow. This bull like other elk may lose 20 to 25 percent of their weight over a winter and if he loses more than 30 percent, very likely he will not survive the winter. The winter might take it or if it's so weak, predators the likes of wolves or cougars will take it. It helps when the days start getting longer, it means shorter cold nights to deal with. Using the dense forest as cover, it can be few degrees warmer in the forest and protection from the wind. It may not make a difference for one day, but over a whole winter, every bit adds up. For wildlife it's the survival of the fittest, literally.
Once the rut season is over, the male Elk will get together and stay together until the next rut season. Few larger bulls will stay alone, if they are weak from not having enough time to eat during the rut season, losing up to 30 percent of the weight. And if cold weather arrives right after the rut season, it can end larger bull's life. But if they can find enough food and get back some energy. Then there's a good chance they will survive the winter and hope to compete in the next rutting season.
With the elk rut season coming to an end, it was interesting to see the male challengers were taking every steps to avoid fighting with the defending bull. Only when the challenger though he could take on a defender there would be a battle. First step would be to listen to the defending bull's bugle, which indicates size and strength of the defender. If the challenging bull was not deterred from the bugling, then he would locate the defender and size him out. If the challenger still felt confident, there might be bluff charge or two, both bulls walking side by side with each showing the other how big they were, this can go on for several minutes. If neither bull moves off, the next step would be to fight each other, this can last few seconds to several minutes. From my experience, in most cases the defender is the winner, even more so the larger the harem a defending bull has. Because there is a good reason why a certain bull has a large harem, the females decide which male to seek out for mating from the bugling. A weaker bull not only has tougher time defending but also keeping his harem together.
Two elk bulls fighting to decide who will mate. Normally these fights last a minute or so, sometimes seconds. But in this case they went on for several minutes, both getting tired and foaming at their mouth. Finally it was over, the one on the left was the challenger and in the end the loser of this battle.
This young bull elk making the moves on this female during the rut season. Head held high, the tongue sticking out while approaching the cow when trying to attract her during the mating season.
The elk rut season is full on, bugling can head throughout the valley. This male was busy calling out after taking his aggression out on the vegetation. The larger stronger males's bugling will attract the females who are interested in mating with this male. As well keep males away, except for those who feel they can challenge the bugling male.
Not sure what was going on, but I saw these three elk while birding. They were rising back and forth in different direction. I looked around to see if there was a a predator, none spotted. After a while they ran away from me and did not return. Maybe they were excising.
It was a cold morning when I came across four male elk, the other two are just outside the frame. It had been a very cold night, so as soon as the sunshine hit the valley, they moved into it. Every bit helps.
Until next moment,
There were three male elk I came across, while two of them stayed to the side and kept eating. This one stopped to look toward me and seems to be showing me his teeth. Perhaps he was smiling for the camera.
Until next moment,
Couple of months ago this male elk got yellow rope tangled onto its antlers. Every week or so I come across him, he's doing well. The rope is now mostly tangled on just one of his antlers. He might just have to wait until April when his antlers will fall off, along with the rope.
Until next moment,
It coming toward the end of the rut season, the dominant males are getting tired, you can hear it in their bugling compared to start of the rut season. It will not be long before the large bulls will behanging out with the bachelors once again. It will be interesting to see what this bull will do, before the rut season I seen him few times and each time he was on his own.
Until next moment,