June 2, 2023

When Bull Elk Are Rutting Stay Clear

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Bull elk are now quietly grazing in the meadows around Yellowstone National Park working at storing up some fat for the long winter ahead. But that wasn’t the case just a few short days ago when the majestic beasts were in the middle of the annual rut.

When animals like the elk begin the rut, they are known to do some pretty unusual and outlandish things. Isn’t that true of just about any animal? One thing that can happen with the bulls is they can get agitated and become quite agressive.

In Yellowstone, bull elk have more opportunities to take out their agression than say some lonesome elk wandering the high plains outside the park. Yellowstone elk have cars and people they can attack.

“Somebody yelled from the break room, ‘Kimberly, there is a raging elk by your car. Kimberly, he just got your car,’ ” she said.

“I ran to look out, and he was head butting the hood of my car with his antlers. I screamed out the window ‘Please stop. Pretty please, stop’ and he lifted his head and looked up, and then just walked off.”

That’ll teach her to own a Volkswagon Beetle, humph!

Young said each year there is an average of 25 to 35 cars damaged by aggressive elk when people drive too close to animals or drive between the bulls and their cows.

“That is not a good thing to do,” Young said.

This year, Young wrote five citations for people getting within eight yards of the elk.

“Over the years, I have had to drive the car between a bull and a person. I did that three times this year.

“We have had people pinned against trees and pinned on steps …

“We had a girl knocked down, and she got right back up and began shooting more photos. We finally got her into the post office,” he said.

“They think (the elk) are in the Mammoth Village, and so they are tame,” Young said.

“We have gals with longer hair get fluffed in the air. We have had fanny packs and sweatshirts (tied around the waist) ripped off.”

Here little moo-moo! Come here. Nice little moo-moo. I just want to get a little bit closer so I can get a better picture. Wait til I show Mom!

“There were six bulls in Mammoth, but there was one huge one that was dominant,” Douglass said. “The smaller bulls were on the periphery, but this bull was in the center island in front of the post office and he had his cows there. He was running around checking them out, and there was a guy standing behind a tree taking a picture. The bull saw him and trotted toward him. The silly guy started to run across the street and the bull just exploded. Luckily, a guy in a car kind of lurched forward toward the bull and hit the horn and distracted the elk. The tourist got away.”

It is so much fun to capture a good picture of wild animals but it helps to have a better understanding of the potential death and destruction a massive animal like a bull elk can do to someone when he thinks they are messing with his cows during the rut.

Tom Remington