Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Mating season means bugling elk at Rocky Mountain National Park

September 13, 2010, 9:57 am

Fall is in the air, and that means it's elk bugling season at Rocky Mountain National Park.

> How many: An estimated 2,000 in the park this time of year.

> Prime bugling season: Beginning of September through October.

> Best spots: Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park and Upper Beaver Meadows on the east side and Harbison Meadow, Holzwarth Meadow and Kawuneeche Valley on the west side.

> Best viewing time: Early morning from before sunrise to mid-morning and late afternoon to just past sundown.

> Why the bugling: Bull elk weighing about 1,000 pounds are prime breeding age at 8 to 9. They establish harems of cows with which to breed. There is fierce competition among the bulls during the mating season or rut. The bugling, which generally starts with a crescendo of deep, resonant tones that rise rapidly to a high-pitched squeal before dropping to a series of grunts, is a signal of a bull's strength. The bigger the bull, the louder and more range the call and the more intimidation, resulting in few antler-to-antler battles.

> Elk Echoes: These free ranger-led elk talks take place 6 p.m. nightly through Oct. 11 at the Moraine Park Visitor Center amphitheater along the Bear Lake Road and Sheep Lakes parking lot on the west end of Horseshoe Park.

> Elk closures: Trails in Horseshoe Park, Moraine Park, Upper Beaver Meadows and the Kawuneeche Valley are closed 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. through October to protect the elk.