American Bull Elk joust

American Bull Elk spar in the vicinity of two other bulls.

Don Augustine took this photo near Cub Lake in Bear Valley Springs of a couple of American Bull Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) sparring together in the vicinity of two other bulls.

These big boys are conspicuous during the long sun-drenched days of summer, as they graze in local meadows and grasslands, rest in the shade of trees, and seem to lead generally indolent lives.

Things change with the onset of autumn and the fall rut, however, as bulls attempt to defend a harem of cow elk from other bulls to keep mating opportunities for themselves.

Then a usually placid bull can spend most of its time on heightened alert, monitoring cow elk and trying to keep other bulls at bay through jousting and chasing. These anxious suitors usually lose weight during the rut because they are so active and often too busy to eat.

This is also the time of year when bull elk perform their bugling, which is a kind of whistling scream that bulls make to announce their presence to cows and establish dominance over other bulls. This at times piercing and eerie sound is part of the autumn sound track of the mountainous American West.

Most of the elk in our area can be found in Stallion Springs and Bear Valley Springs. The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for elk is parahui, pronounced pah-rah-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: editorial@tehachapinews.com.