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 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.
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.