Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Elk at Silver Creek

One of the interesting trends at Silver Creek is the increasing number of elk using the preserve throughout the year.

On a recent visit, I saw more than 200 elk on the preserve and on private lands adjacent to Silver Creek.
Drive slowly along Stocker Creek Road at dawn or dusk, and you have a good chance of seeing similar scenes.
As night falls, the preserve becomes an even more dramatic place, as the sounds of bull elk bugling echoes across the valley--from the aspens, from the meadows, from the Picabo Hills.
While the peak of the elk rut is past, you still have a decent chance of hearing some bugles if you visit the preserve soon. To my mind, it's one of the most dramatic sounds in nature.
As Wyoming resident Audrey Hagan says in this National Public Radio piece on natural sounds: "When I moved to Jackson Hole about twenty years ago and first heard an elk bugle, all of a sudden the fall was defined by the sound of an elk instead of the color of an elm tree."
Accompanied by the calls of cranes, ducks, geese, coyotes and owls, it creates what I call the Silver Creek fall symphony.
Big bulls like the one in the photo above jealously guard their harems. Their bugles advertise their dominance, and they continue throughout the night. There's little time for rest for a bull elk in autumn.
I watched and photographed this herd on the preserve for a while, but then something disturbed the elk--and they were off in a cloud of dust.
They didn't go far. Their bugling soon resumed across the preserve--yet another natural spectacle to enjoy at the preserve.--Matt Miller

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