Boys in the Hood: Elk behavior during the rut - YMCA of the Rockies Blog | Colorado
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Boys in the Hood: Elk behavior during the rut

Our security coordinator recently wrote this for our staff. We wanted to share with all of our visitors. Please respect our wildlife – and stay safe!

During the rut or mating season (September and October in Estes Park), bull elk have only two things on their minds. One is reproduction, or mating with cow elk, the other is fighting to keep their harem of cows from rivals. These bulls are literally looking for trouble.

During mating season, bull elk have huge amounts of testosterone flowing through their blood and will attack anything they perceive as a rival. This could be an elk, a motor vehicle or a human. A herd bull (a dominant bull with a harem of cows), is the baddest thing around, and doesn’t mind proving it. These herd bulls will often lose 20 percent of their body weight during the rut.

A bull without a harem of cows is usually not in a social mood, (see above) and is looking to vent his frustrations on anything handy. Think of these bulls without harems (aka satellite bulls) as high school boys that just got kicked out of the dance, and aren’t happy about it. They hang around the outsides of the dominant bull’s harem, looking for a chance to steal a cow.

The elk on the YMCA campus, in Rocky Mountain National Park, and all of the Estes Valley are accustomed to humans, and aren’t afraid of them, as elk in other places of the country are. Most visitors to the Estes Park area don’t live around wild animals, and don’t have a working knowledge about their habits.

These elk will allow humans to get way too close before reacting to the intrusion on their “space.” This creates a potentially dangerous situation, and a human invading an elk’s space can be seriously injured. They are wild animals that tolerate humans, to a point. Elk often won’t give you a clue that something is about to happen, they will just show you. If they charge and catch you, it will hurt.

At the very least:

  1. Give these elk plenty of room, at least 15 yards or meters.
  2. If a bull is posing and eyeballing you, you better back off.
  3. Don’t get in between a bull and cows, between bulls, or in the middle of any elk herd.
  4. Don’t surround any wild animal; leave them an obvious escape route.

Chris Daubin is the security coordinator for YMCA of the Rockies. He served as district game warden in Wyoming for 28 years. He lives in Estes Park.


About The Author

As a Colorado native, Lisa believes working at YMCA of the Rockies is a dream job. In her spare time, she swims, bikes, hikes and hangs out with her dogs as much as possible. Lisa loves the outdoors and feels lucky to work for an organization whose mission is to build strong families and strong communities while letting nature inspire.

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