Natural Sightings #431 - Bull Elk Stopping Traffic

A large American Elk bull temporarily stops traffic in Bear Valley Springs.

Contributed by Saul Servin

Saul Servin took this photo in Bear Valley Springs of a large American Elk bull (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) temporarily stopping traffic. This bull appears to be in prime health, with good body weight and a large rack of antlers covered in velvet.

This is the time of year when small bachelor herds, consisting entirely of bull elk, are seen in the meadows of Bear Valley Springs and Stallion Springs. American Elk, also known as Rocky Mountain Elk, were released on several large ranches in the area in the 1970s, and their numbers have slowly increased since then.

During the summer when ample forage is available, elk tend to spend most of their waking hours eating between 8 and 15 pounds of grasses, leaves and other vegetation daily. Elk, like deer, tend to be most active in the early morning and late afternoon. They are often seen by people during their resting periods in the middle of the day when they lounge in the shade or cool off by standing in water sources.

Elk antlers are considered to be one of the fastest-growing examples of bone in the natural world, and they can add nearly an inch a day to their length. These antlers are used for jousting with other bulls during the autumn rut, and are naturally discarded in early winter. The antlers are a rich calcium source for a variety of animals, and they are chewed into oblivion by mice, wood rats, squirrels, foxes and other creatures.

The Nüwa (Kawaisu or Paiute) word for elk is tuhuyi, pronounced tu-HOO-ee.

Natural Sightings is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News, edited by Jon Hammond, which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to