Let me just reiterate – there is an entire festival dedicated to elk. Leave it to Estes Park, Colorado! October is known as “Elktober” in this town. Fall is the prime mating season for elk, and they can be seen all around the town of Estes Park as they come down from the mountains.
Elk fest celebrates the courtship season (known as “rut”). When bulls (males) compete for the attention of cows (females), they start with a “bugle,” a unique and eerie call made by the animals just before dusk during the rut to make themselves known to the cows and other bulls that will also be vying for the cows’ attention. The bulls will battle each other (called “rutting”) by using their large antlers in order to determine who will claim dominance.
Elk are also commonly known as “wapiti,” a Shawnee name that means “white rump.” This is in reference to the light tan rump-patch that all elk have. Mature male elk can weigh over 1,000 pounds, their antlers alone could weigh up to 40 pounds. Fun fact: Antlers are the fastest growing bone in the world! They are shed and re-grown every year. These large, powerful creatures are certainly impressive!
However, elk were not always found in multitudes as they are today. Back in 1910, there were only a few elk left in Colorado because they were such popular prey for hunters. The threat of near extinction of elk served as a wake up call for the people in Colorado, and hunting was eliminated for the next 26 years and animals from Yellowstone were transplanted to restore herds and improve habitats. It is safe to say that this worked; Colorado now has more elk (300,000!) than any other state!
As part of the celebration, Elk Fest offers a whole lot more than just watching elk. There are bugling contests, elk viewing tours, Native American music, dancing, and storytelling, elk seminars, children’s elk-themed activities, a beer garden, and much more!
Intrigued enough to want to see Elk Fest for yourself? Start planning your trip to Estes Park! I hope to be in attendance again next year, and hopefully will get there early enough to hop on an elk viewing tour as well!