Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I was happy to share a quick drive down the road with another lead interpreter, to view the elk herds. We saw a total of nearly 100 elk!! The Two Dog Flats area had about 46 elk hanging out, peacefully grazing. The next meadow to the west had about 40 some elk grazing and bedding down for the night. The next meadow to the west had 9 elk grazing in a small group. There were also several others we saw in groups of 2. I’m sure there were more than the elk, so that’s almost 100!! Crazy.
The Rocky Mountain Elk on Two Dog Flats.
I took a photo of one elk that was really pregnant. I think I saw the baby’s leg sticking out from her belly. It’s no wonder that she was staring at us!! She probably couldn’t run very fast from any predators! I didn’t notice she was that pregnant until I downloaded my photos. It inspired me to research elk and their biology.
The very pregnant elk...I think I see a leg sticking out! She was "mid-chew" in this photo!
Elk are one of the largest mammals in
Only male (bull) elks have antlers. They are made of bone and can grow at the rate of 1 inch per day! A they can have eight or more tines (or points) on each antler and the number has little to do with the maturity of a particular animal. That surprised me! The formation and retention of antlers is testosterone-drive. In early winter, the drop of testosterone causes the shedding. The testosterone level is effected by the drop in pheromones in the environment. I’ve heard two Glacier stories of a bull elk that still had his antlers in the spring—very strange.
During the rut, females (cows) gather around a dominant bull elk (usually around 8 years old) in a group of 20 or more females, called a harem. The estrus cycle of a female elk is very short, only one or two days. Wikipedia says there are often a dozen or more failed attempts. Similar to a Grizzly Bear's delayed gestation, the elk reproduction is effected by their weight. Strangely, reproduction most likely occurs when the cow is 450 pounds. That's a pretty heavy animal! They should be having their young very soon. When they do, they will isolate themselves from the herd until the calf is large enough to escape predators. I’m wondering if the elk that were by themselves were about to have (or had) calves? Mother Nature is so cool! It all takes place every year without any human interfering! That’s awesome!
I feel very fortunate to experience the wildlife first hand! Thanks Glacier for being protected!
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 40's (Sometimes I wonder if my thermometer is broken, it stays at 40 degrees!)