Warning as elks strut during rut in national park

By Teena Monteleone
September 23, 2018 - 12:00pm

Love is in the air at Prince Albert National Park. Elks are in the midst of their mating season. The rut, as its called, is an intricate display of prowess and one that often attracts the attention of tourists.

“It’s all about breeding. So, the elk’s hormonal levels have increased and they’re full of testosterone and adrenaline and they’re basically herding up all the female elks or cows as they can into a harem,” Kevin Ferrie, visitor safety coordinator with Prince Albert National Park, said.

The elks call out or bugle to try and lure the cows and intimidate bulls in the area. The sound is as impressive as the howl of a wolf.

“It’s a very guttural call that comes from deep within their lungs and it's piercing and can travel an awful long way,” Ferrie said. “They’ll do that 20 hours a day and you’ll hear the bugling every 10 or 15 minutes.”

The elk can also be seen thrashing their antlers against trees and bushes to impress the cows and assert their presence among other bulls. Sometimes they will fight each other in a show of strength. While it’s a great opportunity to witness the spectacle of the rutting season, it can also be dangerous for humans.

“The bulls are quite alert and unpredictable,” said Ferrie. “They’re not selective in what they perceive as danger. It could be a pet on a leash, a mountain biker who surprises them coming around a corner or a motor vehicle just sitting there idling could be considered a threat.”

On Wednesday, Jasper National Park officials posted a photo on their Facebook page showing four holes in the side of a park vehicle with the caption, 'Why you should stay in your car while viewing elk during rut season.'

The best way to view the rut is from far away using binoculars and zoom lenses on cameras to avoid disturbing them. Ferrie said a good rule of thumb in keeping your distance is to stay about three bus lengths away from the animals.

“If you’re in a place where the animal starts to notice you…you’re probably already too close,” he said.

Ferrie said there can be as many as 40 elk within the national park at any given time. The rut season lasts from mid September to mid October.


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