Tule Elk at Their Finest

September 15, 2018 at 2:48 pm (California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Video, Wildlife) (, , )

The biggest herd of elk I’ve ever seen under control of one alpha male was along the Pacific Coast Highway just north of San Simeon, California the first week of September. He ruled over 35 cows and half-grown calves, with 10 other bulls – some with huge racks – grazed peacefully. One scrawny male challenged him while I was there. Take a look.

The first part of the video was in mid-afternoon, so the heat waves interfered with the quality. But I returned an hour before sunset for the best light, and they were closer to the road. A few horses even joined them in grazing.

He spent a lot of time rounding up his harem in a fairly tight bunch, so no interloper could snatch them away.

The testosterone keeps the bulls pretty wound up, and he made a few mating attempts with a cow who seemed receptive. It seems the females also mount the males as well, which could be a sign of affection and desire. Watch the video if you don’t believe me.

A few days later I found a smaller herd that frequents an area in Jolon, near Fort Hunter Liggett. This bull had just chased off a rival.

His cows were in the shade under a grove of oaks, standing on their hind legs to pull down the oak lichen, which apparently was a delicacy.

I returned to the area in the early evening and found them a couple of miles away.

The bull seemed exhausted and had a slight limp. Maybe the rigors of mating and fighting were wearing him down.

The cows moved out when they saw me, with their lord and master bringing up the rear.

They would stop periodically to look back, as if awaiting further guidance.

They moseyed along.

The Tule Elk is the smallest of the three sub-species of elk found in California.

To see a herd like this one in April, when the bull was just regrowing his anglers, see my earlier blog post.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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