My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Season of the Elk

The elk are in their rut and have been putting on quite a show for the last several weeks. ( Elk ruts can last up to twelve weeks, depending if young elk are breeding - they become breeders later than do older elk.)  Elk are the second largest members of the deer family - moose are the largest - and are very beautiful to watch. Their bugle includes a grunt at the beginning, which can only be heard a fairly close distances,  and a whistle at the end. Their rut period lasts up to twelve weeks.

The largest males are extremely stressed from having to defend their harems from marauders.  Our most dominant male now has a herd of about 30 cows and calfs.  He spends most of his time keeping his harem together and moving from one end of the harem to the other bugling out his warnings to get lost, NOW.

The other evening, while closing the refuge, I found two young males fighting through a cross fence.  Then a big male came their way.  The  young male on the same side of the fence suddenly had an important appointment elsewhere. However the young male on the far side of the fence kept talking trash. I didn't stay to see the outcome of this encounter.

For the last few days, the most dominant male is holding his harem behind the visitor center. I had good enough light on this morning, to get pictures of him defending his harem and chasing off a younger male.

Bull with part of his herd.  He patrols constantly and will push his harem closer if
another bull comes near

It takes a lot of work to get and keep the girls

Warning bugle

He has tightened up the harem - notice the calves

Then he had to chase off a competitor ....

into the staff parking lot

Where the inttruder takes a breather - all those puncture wounds gotta hurt

Another bull from a week ago, at Mission Creek

His harem was smaller

There is hardly time for eating - the bulls are watching, walking, bugling, and herding females

Another wanna be

On a personal note, we are all rushing to get ready for Roundup.  My jobs today included going to town and picking up supplies for cleaning, doing the biological work on the bison, and painting. I also used 4 gallons of bleach to disinfect a large room in the old slaughter house that has been invaded by pigeons.  (Thankfully, this was the third cleaning - I bless Bob for doing the really dirty cleaning. ) We'll be using the room to centrifuge the blood samples we'll take from the calves.  It was too windy to clean the bathrooms that are full of dead bugs, so I plan on doing that very early tomorrow,  as well as sweeping and rinsing the room I worked on today.  I also have to paint some new parts in the coral tomorrow or Friday and work in the Visitor Center a few hours.

I'm not going to be very regular with my blogs for the next few weeks since I'll be leaving here next weekend and going to visit my old boss and friend, Cindy. for whom I worked at Okefenokee, at Dinosaur National Monument, and then will be heading to Texas for a long paddling weekend with lots of my friends at Caddo Lake. But eventually I'll get time to edit pictures, write blogs and get back on the Internet.

But I will tell you all about roundup before I leave here.