Male Elk (Cervus elaphus)

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posted by Sue Roehl alias Susan Roehl on Wednesday 3rd of August 2022 12:20:13 PM

Yellowstone National Park Wyoming USA Male Elk grazing on some of the last grass along the Firehole River in Yellowstone. This was one of three male elk we saw in Yellowstone on our visit. Bulls begin to grow antlers in early spring, soon after shedding those from the previous year. Summer visitors will find these antlers covered in a soft skin, commonly known as velvet, which provides nourishment to the antlers as they grow. Besides being smaller, females do not have antlers. Bulls begin to “bugle” a high-pitched whistling sound in late August. Some biologists view bugling not as a challenge to rival bulls, but rather as an expression of the pent up stress and emotion that attend the mating season. Elk are seen in all habitats, but tend to be in high country midsummer through fall, and then return to lowland valleys for the winter months. Elk are the most abundant large mammal found in Yellowstone. European American settlers used the word “elk” to describe the animal, which is the word used in Europe for moose (causing great confusion for European visitors). The Shawnee word “wapiti,” which means “white deer” or “white-rumped deer,” is another name for elk. The North American elk is considered the same species as the red deer of Europe. Due to their huge antlers, bull elk are one of the most photographed animals in Yellowstone. Bull elk begin growing their first set of antlers when they are about one year old. Antler growth is triggered in spring by a combination of two factors: a depression of testosterone levels and lengthening daylight. The first result of this change is the casting or shedding of the previous year’s “rack.” Most bulls drop their antlers in March and April. New growth begins soon after.

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  • Published 06.03.23
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