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Friday, January 25, 2019

Nature Friday - The Reality of Winter in an Elk Herd

I have a trail camera next to a pond that our local elk herd visits regularly throughout the autumn, winter, and spring. It captured a series of videos that truly demonstrate how winter affects the herd.

This elk herds spends the summers up very high in alpine meadows and returns to lower elevation for the autumn. When they first come back, the herd crackles with energy. The large bulls bugle regularly, as they round up cows into harems for mating season. Do you see the bull in this photo?

As fall slides into winter, the ponds ice over, and the elk herd is noticeably calmer. The bulls no longer bugle. However, the herd is not silent. The calves frequently call for their moms, making high pitched sounds. Some elk forget to be careful about the still thin ice on ponds and fall through into the water. The pond with my trail camera isn't deep so they easily escape, receiving an important reminder without dire consequences.

In the dead of winter, the tone of the elk herd is deadly serious. No one is wasting energy vocalizing as they ride out a snow storm complete with high winds. Rather, they focus on eating the dead and dry foliage so that they have the calories to survive the cold. Their coats are so thick that snow accumulates on them rather than being melted by their body heat.

It's not easy being an elk in winter. Check out the trail cam video that can give a view from inside or very close to an elk herd that you can never see/hear if you're observing the elk in person.

Many thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the Nature Friday Blog Hop.


  1. they are magical creatures somehow... this eyes...mesmerizing !!!

  2. Hari OM
    Here in the UK, the BBC occasionally puts on 'slow tv'; three or four hours of 'natural' viewing with a camera going along with, say, a barge on the canals, or at Christmas, there was a reindeer migration to ride along with... your video reminds me of this!!! YAM xx

  3. I agree with Mark, they do have a magical look to them, and it hurts my heart to think of them struggling to get through the cold winter..

  4. Such great captures and observations. We saw a large elk herd near Walker Ranch on Tuesday. I've looked for them every day since, but haven't spotted them again. They must still move around a fair amount in the winter.

    1. Yes, they definitely come down toward you when we have too much snow for them to eat grass easily up here. We tend to see them the most in autumn and spring, when the snowpack isn't so deep. Last year was weird because we got so little snow up here.

  5. They are amazing creatures coping with so much during all seasons.

  6. Wow...that was quite an adventure to see on your trail cam.
    Those 'high beam eyes' at night were something. Looks like at the end they are getting water from snow and grass at the same time.
    Hugs Cecilia

  7. Beautiful animals. That would be terrible to see them fall through the ice.

  8. They are such gorgeous animals. Love the calves sweet calls.

  9. They are such amazing animals but I hope I never come back as an elk. I'm a cold wuss. 🥶

  10. They are most impressive. We always stop and watch them when they appear. Beautiful.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. Scritches to the pups. ♥

  11. Grass stalks,a bit like stale dry toast!! They are magnificent animals, and my favourite is with snow sprinkled on thick coats.

  12. They Look So Peaceful - Thanx For Sharing


  13. Great footage! Although I should have turned the sound all the way off, as both cats were sleeping. With the first bugle, they came to Full Alert, and Moxie growled. Elk apparently not welcome here!

  14. They are such majestic animals and we love when we get chance encounters with them!

  15. Thank you for sharing this wonderful video
    Hazel & Mabel

  16. I imagine a lot of wildlife is like that in the winter...which explains why our woods are extra peaceful now! I think I'd find those calls rather eerie if I didn't know what they were.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets


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