The Elk Rut Is In Full Swing!


It’s that time of year again! It’s early October, and that means the elk rut is at its height. During the fall (usually from September to October), you’ll notice that the elk are behaving quite strangely around our Estes Park resort. That’s because it’s mating season for elk in the region—as the weather cools, things heat up for our elk neighbors. Here’s what you can expect to see during the rut:

Fierce Competition

During the rut, bulls (male elk) become aggressively protective of their harems (groups of female elk, or “cows”). When two bulls find themselves in the same region, they may compete for a harem of cows. After a bull signals that an intruding bull is too close for comfort, the two bulls may enter into a melee. During this fierce skirmish, two bulls will smash antlers, using all their might to show their strength. Now, fortunately, this is only a display of strength—while bulls can get hurt, it’s not a fight to the death.

Bull Behavior

Bulls act very strange during the rut. On top of butting heads with the competition, bulls will often rub against trees, tear up grass, and cover themselves in mud and urine (urine serves as a musk to attract cows). As a result, bulls look very imposing; plus, this ritual is intended to display power—which deters other bulls while attracting cows.

The Bull Bugle

In addition to their other competitive behaviors, bulls bugle—making a noise for which elk are notorious. Bulls make odd noises during the rut. Bulls let out a piercing, high pitched yelp. Often, bulls will let out a series of yelps. The bugle (or bugles) can communicating that the harem has strayed too far away, a bull is encroaching, or that it’s time to brawl. Take a look at the video below to catch a glimpse of elk bugling and interaction during the rut:


A Friendly Reminder: Stay Safe!

Visit Estes Park reminds us that elk are dangerous, and we should respect their space:

“Please remember that the elk in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are wild animals. During the rut season, bulls are very territorial and can defend their harems – even from people and vehicles. Keep a safe distance and watch for signs that you are too close. Use binoculars and zoom lenses on cameras to avoid disturbing these majestic animals.”

Missed the Elk Rut?

If you can’t make it to the elk rut this year, there’s always time to catch this glorious ritual next year. Don’t miss out! Take a moment to book a cabin here at Rams Horn Village for the coming year. At our Estes Park resort, we have a number of luxury cabins that are perfectly set here in Estes Valley near Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, we’re so close to RMNP that it’s not rare to see elk right here on the property! So, for an up-close look at some of the most majestic creatures in the Rockies, have a stay with us at Rams Horn!