Roosevelt Elk

Reproduction

The first time a cow (a female elk) will mate is usually a little after two years old. Most males are sexually mature much earlier than the female with as early as 14 months being recorded (Murie 1951). Usually there is a bull that leads the herd called a herd master. This is usually a large male elk that keeps away other males from their female elks. When the herd master is challenged he will engage the opposing bull. If the other bull is younger they will usually lose. The younger bulls are much smaller since most are not mature enough within the time they are actively seeking a mate at the age of 3.

 

The Rut:
The Rut refers to the mating season that happens every fall. The rut usually in occurs early September to early October(Cook 2004); there have been some bulls that begin to form a herd in as early as august. During the rut a bull (a male elk) will form a herd of cows (female elk). The bull who leads the cows is called the herd master, which any bull can obtain the title if they successfully intimidate or beat the current herd master. The herd master will mate with the cows that are in the herd. Although there is a herd master the herd master isn’t the only one who mates with the cows. Sometimes a bull will actually mate with one of the cows while the herd master is either busy with another bull or busy with a threat to the herd. While this happens, it is not thought to happen that often although it is not just in isolated cases either.
The Rut has a physical effect on the elk. The bulls start the rut being fat and in the best shape they are all year. But for that time period, they eat less during the rut and soon lose weight. The rut leaves the males considerably skinny and in poor condition right before winter where the females are still fat and in good condition for winter.

 

Wallowing:
Wallowing is the act of trying to lower the body temperature of the elk. During the rut the elk have a fever where the body temperature is actually increased. The act of wallowing specifically entails when the bull enters a body of water from a couple feet in size up. They are generally muddy with the smell of elk urine penetrating the surroundings. Also they can look beat up because of the elk moving its antlers in the mud. When wallowing the elk will usually drink some of the water then later urinate in the water to mark its territory.

 

Battle:
The battle usually starts with a bull coming upon a herd master. The bull will usually come up to the herd master. This is where the herd master and the bull will start to make gestures to intimidate the other. When neither is intimidated they may start bugling. Bugling is an elk call which sounds like a whistle. Bugling is a main form of communication. If the bull gets close enough to the herd master the herd master will charge the bull. There has never been an instance when a bull has been charged by a herd master and stood their ground(Murie 1951). A chase will soon begin with the bull eventually leaving after a short period of time. Most of the battles that arose would be charging at one another with the antlers being the only part to be engaged at the time.

 

Calving:
Calving is when a cow gives birth to a calf. This usually occurs from May 15th to June 15th (Murie 1951). This happens 8-8 months after they originally mated with the bull. Elk can give birth to twins just like humans can. The majority of births will only have one calf.

 

Calf:
The calf is the name for the elk right after birth through its first couple of years. Right after birth the calf will mostly be lying down. It can walk but when it does it stumbles around and is mostly unsteady. When the calf is in danger it will drop down and lie prone even when walking with a herd. This is a characteristic that some predators use to prey on the calves. This defensive mechanism is almost counter productive in many cases since the calf is an easy target lying in the same place. They are also known to hide behind fallen wood, tree stumps, and bushes. When a calf will actually run away it usually only can manage 200-300 yards before it stops. If the calf is found by a predator the calf will remain perfectly still even though it is most likely to be eaten.
The calf will gain nutrients by drinking its mother’s milk. The calf relies on its mother milk for 2-3 weeks (Murie 1951). After that the calf will begin to eat vegetation.

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