Cool Yellowstone summer evenings are turning into chilling, frosty fall nights. Aspens, willows, grasses and shrubs are displaying brilliant golds, reds, and oranges, and the bull elk are starting to move around. Elk have spent the summer in small herds of cows and calves grazing in alpine areas and hidden meadows. The cooler temperatures, along with recent snow in higher elevations, encourage many herds to find grazing areas lower down and often along river corridors. Elk, both females and males, called cows and bulls, are getting ready for the mating season we call the rut.
The rut occurs for about 6 weeks in September and October and is a very exciting time to view or listen to elk. Frequently we can hear sounds of cow elk squeaking warnings to their calves and coughing or barking as they communicate with one another.
One of my favorite sounds, and the sound that tells me fall is here, is the echo of a bull elk bugling. It’s a magical sound something like a cross between a loud high-pitched whistle and a guttural grunt. It’s like no other sound you’ve ever heard. However, to a cow elk it sounds like an eligible bachelor. Bull elk bugle to call in cows and to vocalize their power and dominance over other bulls that might be in the area. Sometimes we are lucky to witness a bull rounding up his group of cows and watch him work to keep his harem together. We may even catch a wolf watching and studying the herd too! The best time to witness this behavior is typically on an early morning hike, or at dusk along a river bank.
Join us on a hike to learn about other clues elk, and other wildlife, leave along the trail.
Days in Yellowstone are always inspiring, whether it’s the fall colors, beautiful skies, or elk bugles in the distance. The chill in the air tells me that winter snows are not far behind. Yippee!!
10 simple steps for being a guide in Yellowstone National Park: