Rocky Mountain National Park Elk - Tundra near the Alpine Visitor Center - West Horseshoe Park - Moraine Park
These photographs were taken over a 3-day period in September during the Elk rut. The bulls are impressive; they can weigh 800+ pounds. Their massive antlers weigh about 40 pounds. Elk sense of smell and hearing are excellent. Maintaining a safe distance while photographing them is imperative; you do not want to find yourself in a situation where a bull may suddenly charge to defend his territory or his herd of cows and their calves; with a top speed of about 35 mph, you are not going to out run them!
Bull Elk bugling (audio clip at that site) is a particularly eerie sound to experience. It typically signaled that this is his domain. Potential intruders, including photographers for that matter, were duly warned.
At one point while photographing a large bull in West Horseshoe Park, he apparently decided that his harem of approximately 15 cows and 2 calves was wandering a bit too close to the photographers and other park visitors lining the roadside. It was somewhat unnerving to experience just how agile 800+ pounds of muscle and antlers could charge directly towards us for a few hundred feet until, perhaps only 100 feet away from us, the bull quickly and expertly herded the cows and calves into a sharp 180 degree U-turn to keep them well away from us!
A bull in Moraine Park (see photos) decided that sparring was the way to settle a dispute with a bull that was apparently perceived as challenging the rights to his territory and/or his harem.