Elk Encounters

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Elk is one of the largest species of deer in the world, and one of the largest mammals in North America, just behind the moose.

Elk is one of the largest species of deer in the world, and one of the largest mammals in North America, just behind the moose. On November 28, 2010, I saw this beast roaming around on Coal Mine, in between Dakota Ridge High School, and Summit Ridge Middle School, in Littleton; practically in my backyard. It's one thing to observe them in a zoo, or a national park, but to see it in your own habitat was truly remarkable, especially since it's not an everyday occurrence for me.

 

All together there were just three of the 800,000 elk living in the Rocky Mountain region. In 1913, a massive group of Rocky Mountain Elk were reintroduced to Colorado and Wyoming, after near extinction from over-hunting. The dozens of people there taking pictures and those who pulled over to the side of the road were amazed as well, and one of us knew why they were here, and not in their native habitat of mountain meadows and forests.

 

These elk were male, because all three had antlers, and antlers only grow on male elk, otherwise known as a bull. A set of antlers on a mature bull can weigh up to 40 pounds. These three were probably traveling in a group known as a bachelor group.

 

One of the elk had a tag around its neck, with C7 engraved on it, most likely from the annual elk count for the hunting season to set hunting licenses. Elk are hunted each year for their quality antlers and ivories (the top two canine teeth), but the hunting helps to control overpopulation, and is monitored by government organizations. Thankfully, elk are far from extinction.

 

Eventually, the elk ran farther away into a field, but not as fast as their top speed of 45 mph (miles per hour). However, they kept returning periodically throughout the day, captivating those driving by at that moment. They were showing signs of fear, with their head raised and eyes widened as they walked by stiffly.

 

To hear bugles (mating calls), and other vocalizations of elk, or to learn more about elk, go to http://www.rmef.org/AllAboutElk/FastFacts.

 

Most people have to go to a zoo, or a national park to see elk, but I was fortunate enough to be able to see them in person, right near my house; in a place where they don't normally reside. It was an encounter to remember.