Rocky Mountain elk, Rocky Mountain National Park, 2015.
North American elk were once plentiful in the Rocky Mountain Park area. However, as human settlements expanded during the 1800s, local elk were hunted to near, if not total, extinction. So, in 1913-1914, forty-nine elk were transplanted from the nearby Yellowstone National Park into the area. Unfortunately, an all-out effort to eliminate predators, including the gray wolf and grizzly bear, began at the same time. Today, an 'Elk and Vegetation Management Plan' addresses these issues, with a goal to maintain a more natural population of 600-800 elk in the low-elevation areas during winter. Pictured: Every autumn, Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) descend from the high country to montane meadows for the annual breeding season. In this season of excitement, bull elk compete with one another for the right to breed with a herd of females. While competition is high among bulls, it includes little fighting because fighting causes injury and depletes energy. Instead, mature bulls compete by displaying their antlers, necks and bodies. They also emit strong, musky odors and bugle.
U.S. National Park Service
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