Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sunrise and Elk Mating Season

Yesterday began in our normal way... a mountain bike ride for me and Shyla. At the start of our ride, we found some bright aspens that glowed in the rising sun.
Whenever I capture a photo of Shyla with her beautiful eyes shining and a shadow on her face, it strikes me as so appropriate. Like all of us, she has her beauty and strength but she also has demons to fight. Photos like this one symbolize that dichotomy to me.

After our bike ride yesterday, we decided that, if we wanted to see the elk rut at Rocky Mountain National Park this year, we'd better do it immediately, given the pending government shutdown. We really lucked out yesterday, because the park was open for the last day before the shutdown, and entry was free due to the flood emergency. That was a very nice gesture.

We love watching elk. This was a group of velvet-antlered bull elk that we saw near our house on July 1st.  These are really big elk for a hunted population, like the one that lives near us.
The combination of them and the wildflowers was gorgeous.
Yesterday, we drove to the National Park, where the resident herd was in the midst of mating season. During that season, males claim "harems" of cow elk, and they fight each other to keep their harems intact. The bulls are always trying to lure cow elk away from another male.

The only "fighting" yesterday was very far away from us. I was grateful to my friend who has loaned me a long telephoto lens so I could get a glimpse of them through my camera.
Their antlers never actually touched. The bull on the left backed down before a true battle erupted. The bull on the right had a fairly big harem about 50 yards behind him.

Most of the time, we watched a bull and harem that were well established so there was very little conflict for this bull. Here he is surrounded by his harem.
I'm going to save the rest of the story for later in the week so I can share some fun photos of young bulls trying to "steal" his harem plus some of the funny behavior of this bull.

This day in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of our favorite traditions. Every autumn we go see the elk rut, sitting in the chilly air of the park, watching the animals play out their age-old behaviors. There's always a tinge of sadness for me because I know that it means that the warm days of autumn are truly winding down. However, this day is always a highlight!

Here is the sunset light on the main bull elk who we watched yesterday.
Yes, the sun is starting to set on autumn here.


  1. With a harem like that he must be boss
    Benny & Lily

  2. I had the pleasure of visiting that park 3 years ago, it was so beautiful. Glad you were able to get in before the shut down.

  3. That's a splendid tradition!

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  4. A nice tradition and you captured the beauty to share with all of us. Special,
    Thank you

  5. I can't wait to read the rest of the story. They are beautiful creatures and it is great that you were able to get in there to see them before the shutdown.

  6. Wow, that's a stunning picture of Shyla. Thanks for sharing your adventures with the elks with us. I especially love the last picture of the bull :)

  7. My MOM has also watched the elk at RMNP. It is such a beautiful place and in the autumn it especially is. What wonderful shots you got of those magnificent creatures.

  8. You fur looks so soft, Shyla.
    The Elk are so beautiful surrounded by the wildflowers!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  9. what fun! elks in rut! beautiful season...xoxo

  10. Yard to imagine autumn moving on already! It's barely started yet here! We are going into the mid to upper 80's today!

  11. I love watching the elk too, they are so awesome. I am just furious that people can't get to the national parks because of the stupid government.

  12. One year - I worked at the gift shop many years ago at that park - I wonder if we ever ran into each other and just never knew it! We all stayed at a hotel in Estes Park and I can remember all the people pulling over along the side of the road taking pictures - the sound of the bugling elk. It's really gorgeous around there - so glad that you get to do this every year, it's a great tradition!

  13. Great Pictures of the elks. THey are huge.
    I have Another blogfriend who is at Pennsylvania Elkk range and studies the elks.

  14. Oh Shyla, you are one beauty gurl!!
    Ma is SO jealous of you gettin' to watch the beautiful Elk! I can't wait to hear the story of that bull...he does look..mischievous!
    Ruby ♥

  15. Ohhh, thank you for sharing this beauty with us,
    We love your world, and these Elk are amazing.
    We are so happy you have this beautiful world- for all of you!

  16. Wow, all of the pictures are just lovely! I do like the Elk and wildflowers ones as well, and also the very last bull elk one.

  17. I'm glad you made it before the shutdown. I just learned that our favorite nearby hiking place is closed, and I'm really upset. It's a place that I feel really comfortable and safe hiking by myself. *grumble* I'm looking forward to your funny stories!

  18. Fantastic!!! Years ago (when our daughter still wasn't in school) we were in Rocky Mountain NP during elk mating season, and it was unforgettable. I am so glad that I could experience it, and I can understand that this day is a pure highlight for you.

  19. What a gorgeous photo of Shyla! Love the light and shadows. I'm glad you were able to see the elk at Rocky Mountain National Park. They are such majestic animals.

    Susan and Wrigs

  20. Really nice example of the flehmen response in that last photo. :)


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!