David Emenheiser took this photo of two bull elk cooling off in Cub Lake at Bear Valley Springs. Known as American or Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni), these elk are descended from a group of about 400 animals that were captured and brought from Yellowstone National Park to the Ellsworth Ranch in Stallion Springs about 1966.
The American Elk subspecies have the largest antlers of all six subspecies that were formerly found in the U.S. — a full size rack can weigh 40 pounds. Elk antlers are considered among the fastest-growing bone in the natural world, and these antlers are shed each winter and re-grown each spring and summer.
Two subspecies, Merriam's and Eastern Elk, are now extinct. Of the remaining four subspecies, the ones known as Roosevelt or Olympic Elk have the largest body size, but not the largest antlers. While antlers are growing, they are covered with a fuzzy, vascular-rich tissue called velvet.
The elk that were originally native to the Tehachapi Mountains and this part of California are known as Tule Elk, and they have the smallest body size of North American elk subspecies. A growing herd of Tule Elk can be found on the Wind Wolves Preserve at the western extremes of the Tehachapi Mountains.
Both the American Elk and the California Mule Deer we have locally are members of the deer family, but in addition to the big size difference, another distinction is the fact that elk often love getting in water, and Mule Deer almost never stand in water or swim like elk do.
The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for elk is parahui, pronounced pah-rah-HOO-ee. It means "water deer."
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.