It is calving season for the elk here in Jasper. From about May-June, the elk have their babies, and as a horse guide, I care about this because it means that the elk become a lot more troublesome.
Elk are EVERYWHERE in Jasper. I’ve seen them on the trails, in the barn yard, in town, in the school playground, in parking lots, at the side of the highway, in the middle of the road…. everywhere.
A photo from my last year here. This bull elk, who we called Seamus, used to hang out at the barn all the time. Here, he’s standing by the front porch of our housing:
A couple elk have even figured out that our barn has grain in it. At night, after we’ve finished the last rides and put all the horses out in the fields, this elk likes to go around and check the stalls for leftover oats:
They might be everywhere, but elk are underrated as one of the most dangerous animals in the park. People are always warned to watch out for bears, carry bear spray, take a bear bell hiking, and so on, but aren’t warned to the same degree about elk. Even though most bears tend to be afraid of humans and run in the other direction, whereas the elk have gotten much more used to people and don’t shy away as much.
The elk are especially dangerous at two times during the year: the fall, aka rutting season, when the male elk are all competing for the babes, and the spring calving season.
The female elk can be super aggressive during this time, if they think that their baby (called a calf) is in danger. They’ll charge at people and even slash with their hooves, and won’t let up until you leave the area that their calf is in. Our rides have been lucky in our elk encounters, but we usually give them oodles of space.
Sometimes, though, the elk come to you. A couple days ago, we had a mini-herd of elk come by the yard, complete with babies!
Luckily, despite how many people were milling around the barn, the elk just hung out peacefully for a while before moving away. Standing from a safe distance away (the recommended distance is 30m, or about the length of 3 school busses), I was able to get some photos.
Two of the calves. Their cuteness (somewhat) makes up for all the trouble they cause: