Category: Elk

Heavy Breathing

Elk exhale antler grass WMWith the  annual elk rut in Banff National Park taking place around the town site, many of the elk end up with ropes, plastic bags and other items tangled up in their antlers. Some require sedation to remove the items, while less severe entanglements like this one can be left alone.

The new antler-wear didn’t seem to bother this elk, but he had bigger concerns. Due to his young age and relatively small rack he was relegated to the sidelines and needed to stay out of the way of the larger, much more powerful and battle harden males.  After narrowly skirting around one, he took a few minutes to catch his breath before wisely deciding to move off into the forest.

Bull elk snow fall meadow watermark

A group of  bull elk, having just gone through the rut, gather together in a meadow during a snow storm in Banff National Park. With the long, harsh winter just starting these bulls will have to use their hooves to dig down through the deep snow to find what little food remains for them. Any that become weakened will be tested by wolves and undoubtedly a few won’t make it to spring. Natural selection will favour the strong and the adaptable.

Elk antler scratch watermark

When not using his antlers to fight  over breeding rights, this elk delicately used his antlers to scratch a hard to reach spot!


This adult female elk stood out like a sore thumb in the rest of the elk herd but obviously she has survived despite this variation in colour, although she was slightly thinner than the rest of the herd as evident by her prominent spine.  Sometimes white discolouration of animals can be caused by parasites, disease or wounds but these problems usually only effect a small portion of the fur.  This elk didn’t appear to have any of those and therefore the most likely cause is genetic.  If you search the web there are numerous pictures of white elk and piebald deer but it appears calico or piebald elk are not that common and I have yet to see another photograph of one. Please share if you have!


(c) Owen Slater 0587

A very young elk calf hides in the bushes while the rest of the herd was feeding in an open meadow several hundred feet away.


Across from Upper Wateron Lake the elk have started grouping up into small herds of 10 or so females with a bull elk trying to isolate the females for mating.  As usual the elk headed into the trees for the day before emerging at night to feed.


During the night the elk make their way out from the trees to the open grasslands in Waterton. These two females where heading back into the forest as the sun was rising. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to see the elk.