You Should Call This Elk "Sir"

Seeing elk in Yellowstone National Park is nearly as easy as seeing bison. The elk do not get in the way nearly as much as the bison do, but they are still found near the roads often enough, causing people to slow down or stop in order to get a better look or a photo. There was one place in particular, however, where the elk caused no shortage of angst for the park staff: Mammoth Hot Springs.

I do not know if it is the time of year, or if it is all the manicured green grass, but the little oasis of Mammoth, located on the north side of the park, has its own elk herd. To be more precise, it has one dominant stag, 15 to 20 cows that are part of his "harem", and one or two or three other stags who are looking to get in on some "cow action". The dominant stag, by the way, is the jealous type, and likes to share with no one.

Since the elk are so accessible to us humans in Mammoth, the park rangers have a constant struggle on their hands. The humans must stay back 25 yards or so from the herd, no matter where the herd happens to wander. So the park rangers are often times acting as this giant circle of traffic cops, telling people to back up, move along, watch out or whatever is necessary to keep us humans safe from that herd. Or, to be more precise, safe from that jealous dominant stag. Apparently, even a human who gets between him and one of his harem might spark his ire. Some unlucky (or stupid?) people end up on the wrong end of those antlers.

Of course, Tammy and I were part of the throng of people being herded by the park rangers as they worked to keep the human herd and the elk herd from intermingling. We were in Mammoth to grab some lunch, so we took the opportunity to take pictures of the elk. And we were lucky. Another male elk came sneaking in and was trying to "make friends" with some of the cows. When the dominant stag noticed the interloper, the chase was on. Out with the interloper! The fourth picture below gives a pretty good indication of just how large that dominant stag actually is. The interloper had no choice but to run. After the interloper had been dispatched, the dominant male came back to his harem, herded them into an even closer bunch than before, made that bugle noise that male elk make during the fall, and rubbed his antlers all over the ground. I guess in the world of elk, all that stuff means "Not in my house!".

Master of the Herd
Hopeful Male Elk
Hopeful Male Elk
Dominant Male Elk

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