Elk are, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous animals in the park. This time of year, it’s the males that you have to watch out for. During what’s known as “rutting season” throughout September and October, the big bull elk are all fighting each other for the babes, and can be particularly aggressive. They’ve been known to charge at people, horses, and even cars… pretty much anything that moves, they’ll charge.
On my rides, I try and keep my eyes out for them, which means watching Bert’s ears to see if he hears anything (on the trails, he always hears things coming way before I do, and is good at pointing them out for me). Luckily we haven’t had any aggressive male elk on our trail rides so far, but we have seen several around Jasper.
While hanging out at Lake Annette after work one day, I saw this young male elk in the water. He kept staring intently at the water, and then snorting and tossing his head at it. I think he was looking at a fish. (Not the brightest elk in the forest).
A little closer to home, we’ve had a large male hanging out around the bottom of our road. He’s around so often that some of my coworkers came up with a nickname for him: Samuelk. A few days ago he wandered by our yard with his ladies (called a harem).
This picture was taken by my friend Nat. Samuelk is standing in the aspen trees by the end of our trails. Luckily he continued on and took no notice of us:
Samuelk has also been known to come right into the yard. Here’s another picture from Nat, of Samuelk on the lawn by our front porch…. a little too close for comfort:
If you do run into elk on the trail or elsewhere, the best thing to do is give them lots of space, not get between any elk (especially don’t get between the male and females), and get further away if the elk looks irritated or like it may charge (if it’s overly alert, grinding teeth, pinning ears, etc.). For the most part I think that the elk aren’t too bothered by horses, so fingers crossed that nobody gets charged. I do carry stones in my saddle bags, though, just in case.