Last month, a young bull elk, inflamed by the rut, decided to treat a human photographer as a rival for female elks’ affections.
I saw a very unusual sight in Cataloochee Sunday morning. There were about twenty people lined up along the road watching and photographing a bull elk and his harem of about ten cows and three calves. Everyone was being very quiet and truly enjoying the sights and sounds of a beautiful Fall day in the Smokies.
Movement caught my attention to my right and there sitting on the pavement about seventy-five yards up the road from me was a spike elk sparring with a photographer. The spike had apparently come out of the woods behind the man and wanted to do a little sparring. I turned my camera and began recording the session.
The man lowered his head to avoid eye contact and covered his face with his arms while the spike placed the crown of his head between his antlers against the manâ€™s head and began turning back and forth. The man protected himself as best he could with his arms while clutching his camera and this went on for several minutes.
Each time the spike stopped and backed up a few steps the man would look up and the spike would begin again. The man did not appear to be suffering injuries but the spike would not stop. Finally, a white car approached and turned toward the spike who backed up just long enough for the man to rise to his feet. When the man got up the spike moved toward him and lowered his head like he would charge. The driver of the car approached the spike closer and the man was able to get in the car.
Montana Outdoor Radio asked: “Have you ever seen anything like this in areas out west where the elk are used to people?”
Yes. Some years ago, Karen and I saw California idiots trying to pet a female Roosevelt elk from the Elk Meadows herd near Orick, California. As the human family advanced, the elk looked more and more alarmed, and it was easy to see that if that elk ever decided she was cornered, she was going to stomp or kick some of the offending humans good and proper. Fortunately for them, the elk found herself an exit from the crowd closing in on her, and trotted away. But there was certainly a real possibility for someone to have seriously hurt.