Natural Sightings

Two young American Elk bulls socialize with five California Mule Deer bucks.

Jan and Danny Hendricks of Bear Valley Springs submitted this photo that Danny took of two young American Elk bulls (Cervus canadensis nelsonii) that were socializing with five California Mule Deer bucks (Odocoileus hemionus californicus) in the late afternoon.

Jan says: "Two very young bull elk have worked their way down to the lower elevations. They might be too young to hang with the 'big boys.' So they were looking to hang out with a group of large Mule Deer bucks instead. They just haven't found their place away from the herd yet. We figure the cows drove them away before the mating season comes around. They are just beautiful. They look like shiny new pennies — no battle scars yet."

Tehachapi residents have reported hearing the bigger bulls starting to bugle, so the mating season is fast approaching. The sound of bull elk bugling is an iconic sound of the American West, and it sounds like a kind of whistling scream — more like a slide whistle in reverse than a bugle.

The sound can carry far, and serves to announce a challenge to other bulls, as well as perhaps impressing cows.

It is rare indeed to have the chance to photograph these two different members of the deer family socializing together. They are not enemies, of course, and from time to time can be seen grazing in the same general vicinity in the Tehachapi Mountains, but this little mixed group of bachelors is not common.

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: editorial@tehachapinews.com.