Although I don’t get to hear it all that often, one of my favorite sounds is that of our native elk bugling during the fall rut. Wapiti, as it is know to the native Americans, is a formidable creature. Adult elk are avoided by even grizzly bears as those massive antlers can mean terrible injury or even death. Many an unwise tourist has been introduced to the business end of those ivory tines and learned the hard way – keep your distance.
During the fall the elk are in rut. Males wail night and day trying to attract a harem and defend it from other males. Watching one of these beasts bugling instills in the viewer the shear power required to create such a wonderful sound that can be heard for miles. In the still darkness of 3am on September 23, 2010, I was in a large meadow just east of Jackson Lake in Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming. The cataract at the dam of Jackson Lake can be heard in the distance as well as great horned owls and the single yelp of a canid – perhaps a wolf. There are several male elk spread out from very close to where I was standing (you can hear him munching on grass) to many hundreds of yards in the distance. The hills in the area reflected the screams, creating a wonderful echo and reverberation.
An ethereal early morning chorus of elk bugling near Oxbow Bend of the Snake River. Grand Tetons National Park, WY. ©Wil Hershberger, 3AM, Sept. 23, 2010.
Even though this is a rather sterile recording composed of just a few species, I really enjoy the sense of space and the feeling of loneliness that can be palpable in these locations. What do you think? I certainly hope that you enjoy this recording as much as I.