It’s spring! Everything is blooming, eating, and birthing!
Bull Elk are shedding winter coats, eating to recover stamina, muscle, and strength after the challenges of winter and growing new antlers in preparation for the Autumn Rut. Not yet ready for sparring, the Bulls can often be seen in large foraging or resting groups all around the Park, town and even in our front yard! They seem at ease as they relax in the shade, eating, napping and chewing, enjoying the fresh air and warm earth, perhaps, as much as the small groups of visitors taking pictures from safe distances enjoy their grace and majesty.
Elk Cows, on the other hand, are either heavily pregnant or are recovering from giving birth. At this tender time, they are hyper-vigilant — irritable, jumpy, and highly protective of their young.
For the first several weeks of their lives, the calves remain hidden while the cows browse and recover much-needed nourishment and strength after birthing. It is very important to observe from a very safe distance. Never get between a cow and her calf, and be respectful of their sensitive condition.
Here are some guidelines for safe wildlife viewing:
Be aware of your surroundings. Remember, Elk see you long before you see them. Awesome Elk Fact: Elk have evolved the ability to detect even the slightest motions. They can rotate each eye independently and have extreme wide-angle vision so they are able to see to both sides and straight ahead simultaneously. They will detect your presence long before you detect theirs.
Observe trail and detour signs. If a trail or path is closed, choose an alternate. The bird sanctuary along Lake Estes Trail is a popular “nursery” but Elk can be anywhere.
You are way too close if: an animal is carefully watching you, if her ears are up and her head is down, if she paws the ground or reacts in any way when you move or if she appears “jumpy.” Never make eye contact with a wild animal. It is received as aggressive, dangerous, or threatening and can trigger aggression. For everyone’s safety, look away and back away.
Keep dogs leashed and quiet. Do not allow them to bark, lunge at or chase wildlife. Elk frequently cross the roads in and around Lake Estes. Never allow your dog to bark at wildlife from open windows of your vehicle.
Do not block traffic or stop in the middle of the road. “Elk Jams” are dangerous for both animals and other drivers. Pull safely to the shoulder or park in designated areas.
Elk know no boundaries, but people do. Remember to respect private property as well as the herd and one another when viewing wildlife.