This is part four in my series about photographing elk in Arkansas’ Boxley Valley. In my last post, I shared images of a bull elk scent checking cows. Today’s photos show that same large bull chasing off competitor bulls to assert his dominance.
I witnessed the big bull pursue a small spike bull that wasn’t even near the cows. Though the spike retreated a bit, he didn’t fully leave the field. The lead bull then charged into the trees, likely displacing another rival bull from his harem.
It takes huge amounts of energy for a mature bull to scent check and herd all the cows, and keep away other challengers. This behavior is driven by hormones during the fall rut, ensuring only the strongest bulls have access to the cows for breeding.
Note: After leaving the area, I traveled farther up the road and encountered another large bull thrashing several trees at the edge of a field. This dramatic display of aggression and dominance made for some incredible photos.
Raking trees is also a sign of dominance and can be quite effective at bringing rutting bulls into close quarters (Video).
Watching the dramatic displays as bulls battle for breeding rights made for incredible photos and memories. Stay tuned for part five featuring a cow elk licking its nose.
I’m grateful to have the opportunity to observe and capture photographs of these wild elk engaging in their natural behaviors.
Steve Creek, Wildlife Photographer
Image Information (First Image):
- Date: 10/9/23
- Time: 8:39 AM
- Camera: Canon EOS R5
- Lens: Canon RF 100-500 mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM
- ISO: 5000
- Aperture: 7.1
- Shutter: 1/800
- Exp. Comp.: +0.7
- Program: Manual
My next post in this series: Images and information about why cow elk lick their noses, to improve scenting ability: The Importance of a Wet Nose for Cow Elk
So far in this series: