Elk watchers take note. Most of the herd have returned to Cataloochee Valley for the fall rut. The air is thick with hormones...and the echoes of bugling elk. At one point in the afternoon, I saw this bull emerge from the woods and eventually recognized him as the same elk with whom I'd crossed paths - in another part of the Park - on numerous occasions.
He's known by the number on his ear tag, but in an earlier report I named him "Elmer" to help obscure his identity and keep his whereabouts unknown. Elmer is one of the largest bulls in the herd and is quite the bugler, as well.
Serious elk watchers are familiar with the numbers of their favorite elk, just like NASCAR fans are familiar with numbers of their favorite drivers.
One of those serious elk watchers told me that Elmer has been in some bruising battles with an old rival for at least the third year in a row. "[Elmer] took a whoopin' last week from #3," according to my informant. Now that I've taken it on myself to start naming the elk, it looks like we'll have to call #3 "The Intimidator."
Here's a picture of Elmer that I snapped last spring, before his antlers had grown out to their current impressive size.
What a magnificent critter!
(A previous post, from May 23, 2008, goes into more detail about "Elmer" and the Fall 2007 rut at Cataloochee: http://gulahiyi.blogspot.com/2008/05/life-of-elk.html )