Natural Sightings #601 - Bull Elk.jpeg

A massive bull elk in Stallion Springs.

Stacey Herrera took this photo in Stallion Springs of a massive bull elk. These very large deer, known as American Elk or Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni), are currently undergoing the fall rut and can be seen and heard more frequently.

Stacey said that this bull was alone, and she kept her distance and used a long lens to get this shot. During the spring and early summer, bull elk often form bachelor herds, and it is not uncommon to encounter half a dozen or more big bulls, grazing together and lounging during the heat of the day within several feet of each other.

Once the rut, or breeding season, begins in early autumn, however, the bulls go from being companions to opponents. Elk have an eight and one-half month gestation period, so the cows typically mate early in the fall so that their calves are born at the height of spring, when there is the most fresh green forage available.

Bull elk reveal their suitability as mating partners by advertising their size and fitness. They polish the old velvet off their antlers, and they start bugling — this is the name given to the high-pitched whistling they do to attract females and intimidate rival males. They usually grunt at the end of each whistle, with the louder, deeper grunt indicating a bigger bull. So the bugling sounds like "bweee-uh, bweee-uh."

Cows like to join a harem with a big, dominant bull, in their prime at about six to eight years old, because he can both provide good genetics for their calf, and give the cows more time to feed peacefully by keeping away smaller bulls will constantly harass and try to claim unattached females.

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.

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