Thread: Elk 101
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Old 08-17-2008, 08:49 PM
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Colorado Rick Colorado Rick is offline
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Default Interesting Questions and answers

What do Battling Bulls Endure During the Rut?

Like a heavyweight fighter entering the 15th round, bulls nearing the end of the rut are haggard and beaten to exhaustion. Sleeping little, eating even less, and hopped up on rivers of testosterone, the biggest bulls can lose up to 20 percent of their body weight protecting their harems by the end of the rut. Fighting bulls receive on average 30 to 50 wounds each season. Antlers break, eyes get gouged. Sometimes bulls actually gore their opponents to death. Far more bulls succumb to infections from their wounds.
After aspen leaves fall and snow blankets the high country, the bugles fade and the rut comes to a close. Most bulls go solo or pair up through November and some of December to lick their wounds and hide from hunters. By January, bulls set aside their grudges and group together until deep snow drives them to lower elevations.

What do elk like to hear?

Like hard-bitten bluegrass fans, elk like the high, lonesome sound. Evidence suggests that sounds toward the upper end of the register are most pleasing to their ears. High-pitched squeals and chirps spoken by a herd are a socially positive sound, much like the sound of children playing or a mother singing a lullaby. Conversely, low-pitched growls and barks serve as a warning, such as the bark of a spooked cow.

A bull’s bugle has a combination of both—the high-pitched whistle carries over great distances and the low, guttural barks and grunts resound in dense timber, while also declaring a bull’s size. Often times after a bull runs off an intruding bull, he’ll slap the ground with his hoof and give a series of concussive woofs.

Scientific data on how high, low and far elk can hear is fuzzy, but biologists speculate an elk’s hearing is comparable to a white-tailed deer’s. In other words, formidable—especially since they can rotate their ears a full 180 degrees, allowing them to pinpoint possible threats, such as a hunter who didn’t see the pinecone underfoot until it was too late.

Why Do Elk Bite Trees?

First off, elk won’t gnaw just any tree. Strong resins course from roots to needle tips in the conifers prevalent throughout western elk country. These resins make both needles and trunks unsavory to elk in all but the direst circumstances. Smooth, soft white aspen trunks are a whole different story.

The skin of aspens is able to convert sunshine to chlorophyll the same way green leaves do on most plants. Even in the heart of winter. So the inner bark—the cambium—stays green year-round. Better still, it has a nutritional value approaching that of grass hay for elk. Small wonder that they eat this cambium with relish, especially during the lean times of winter and early spring.

The shallow flesh wounds inflicted by elk teeth seldom cause a tree real harm. Only desperation will drive elk to girdle aspen, stripping bark all the way around a trunk, dooming the tree to slow starvation. Most of the time the only lasting effect is a stippling of black welts—the elk “graffiti” so familiar to those who chase elk in the quakies.

Why do elk eat bones? (never knew this!!)

Elk will indeed indulge in a bone meal from time to time. Elk have been known to chew on bones as well as swallow them whole. According to Valerius Geist, wildlife biologist and cervid expert, elk may even eat carrion and sage grouse chicks in addition to bones and shed antlers.

During antler production, bulls require roughly 100 grams of protein each day, increasing their need for crude protein by 50 percent compared to the rest of the year. Cows, during gestation and lactation, also seek out supplemental sources of protein and minerals. Antlers contain high levels of calcium and phosphorous, but are mostly made up of protein.

Biologists don’t think elk have any particular affinity for the bones of their kin. Since elk live in herds on well-established ranges, they eat the bones of other elk simply because they are the most available source of protein and minerals.

Why Do Cows Separate from their Calves Soon After Giving Birth?

The first few weeks of an elk’s life are some of its most perilous, but calves have a few tricks to escape the teeth of predators. Cows leave their calves soon after birth to avoid drawing unwanted attention to them, returning only a few minutes a day for short suckling bouts. The rest of the time calves lay motionless in the grass doing their best impersonation of a rock. Their spotted backs provide camouflage and they are nearly scentless to elude keen noses. If a calf feels danger is close, it may bleat for its mother. Depending on the size and number of predators, a cow may either attack with sharp hooves or do her best to distract and lure them away. Calves are typically born around the first of June, and with luck, they will be up and running with the herd before July.

Last edited by Colorado Rick; 08-17-2008 at 08:53 PM.
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