Scenes from the Yellowstone Elk Rut

Elk #10 Outside My Office WindowGrowing up in New England, brightly colored leaves adorning the landscape meant fall had arrived. Here in Yellowstone, if I have to dash to my car after work in order to avoid being chased by an elk, I know summer has given way to autumn.

This is my first year in Yellowstone, and my first experience with the annual elk rut. I highly recommend visiting in late September in order to witness this spectacle. 

The bull elk rule Mammoth Hot Springs for a month, and I pity the poor park rangers on elk patrol who work tirelessly at keeping visitors from getting too close to a 700 pound male elk with 60 inch long antlers (yes, amazingly, people do try!).

From my office window, I hear the loud bugling of the bulls daily as they search for females or warn off other male competitors. It’s Yellowstone’s elk dating scene in full force. I’ve become acquainted with two bulls who frequent the area--#10 and #6. Number 10 often serenades me outside my window, and he finally found a lone cow girlfriend on Friday. He’s at a disadvantage in securing partners because Number #6 dominates the Mammoth area.

The Infamous Number 6

Number #6 has a reputation for aggressive behavior, and has charged cars and emerged the victor. This past week, he strolled around Mammoth one day with a broken vehicle tail-light hanging from his formidable antlers. Bulls usually drop their antlers in March or April, and will reach full growth 3-5 months later. A typical rack can weigh 30 pounds.

For a taste of the Yellowstone elk rut scene, here’s my new YouTube video: