Elk Bugling / Elk Rut In RMNP
More than 3,200 elk reside in Rocky Mountain National Park throughout the summer months, making viewings not only possible, but in many cases probable. Dawn and dusk tend to be prime viewing times for spotting elk and other forms of wildlife. The early morning hours and evening hours also offer the best chances to hear elk bugling.
As the colder months approach, most elk migrate to the lower elevations inside Rocky Mountain National Park to prepare for the annual breeding season. September marks elk breeding season, which is also referred to as the elk rut (“rut” derived from the Latin word meaning “roar”).
As huge bull elks prepare to attract female cows, they let out bellows, which range from deep tones to high-pitch squeals to grunts. On fall nights, both inside Rocky Mountain National Park, and in the nearby towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake, the distinctive sounds of elk rutting can often be heard.
Interestingly, bull elks rarely fight each other. Instead, they compete for the females by showing off their antlers, necks and bodies. The sight of the elks – any time of year – is a majestic one. Bull elks can weigh up to 1,100 pounds, and cow elks can weigh up to 600 pounds. Newborn calves weigh about 30 pounds when they’re born in late May or early June, and by the end of the fall, they’ll often have reached a weight of 250 pounds or more.
Elk viewing tips:
•If you see elk, turn off your engine and car lights. Make sure your car doors and windows are closed, and only converse quietly.
•Watch the elk and take pictures of them from a safe, comfortable distance.
•If you’re in Horseshoe Park, Moraine Park, Upper Beaver Meadows, or the Kawuneeche Valley, stay close to the road.
•Watch for posted closures and obey all instructions.