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Recreation and Travel | Some suggestions on where to view the elk rut



Contributing Writer

    The elk rut is an annual ritual that takes place in September and early October. Other species engage in this activity, but the elk rut is something quite special.
    Bulls vie for the opportunity to breed. They bugle to attract cows and to express dominance over other bulls. Sometimes battles occur to prove dominance. Most of these fights are short in duration, with the larger, more powerful bull chasing the smaller bull away. Occasionally large bulls of equal strength square off. These fights can last for hours and sometimes result in an injury to one of the bulls.
    The rut usually takes place in remote locations. A few very diligent people see this activity in the wild, but it takes a lot of effort and determination. But there are places where regular people can see the elk rut without such difficulty.
    A few of these places are Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone National Parks.     Bulls round up their harems from mid-August to early September. The rut occurs in several phases. The first period is of breeding, when older cows come into estrus (the time an animal is able to conceive). This period, which occurs in mid-September, only lasts a few days, is followed by a rest period, when no cows are in estrus.
    Later younger cows come into estrus, followed by another rest period. There can also be a third breeding period when the youngest cows come into estrus. It is all over by mid-October.
    A cow is actually in estrus for only 12-15 hours. That’s why bulls are so attentive during these periods.
    A bull may not eat during the entire breeding period and have been known to lose up to 25 percent of their body weight.
Best bets
    If you want to experience the elk rut up close, my suggestion is Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. You can see it from a safe distance at the Madison River in Yellowstone and at Willow Flat in Grand Teton National Park.
    At Estes Park, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park, elk have been known to use the local park and the golf course for rut activities.

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