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Kootenay Elk

February 11, 2013

Whether you encounter them in the bush, or on a foggy highway at  the Bonnington Bluffs – elk are impressive animals. The  autumn colours and first frosts in the Kootenays go hand in hand with the bugling of the bull elk in the mountains.

Young bull on the Slocan River

Young bull on the Slocan River

Elk Cow hiding in the brush

Elk Cow in the fog

Now in mid-February, their bedding spots, browse, scat and tracks are obvious in the snow.  Sometimes I hear them as they crash away or I  catch a glimpse of the herd as they move on. In winter, elk have to contend with traveling through snow to find food and safety. Right now there is grass showing in the lower elevations but snow conditions can favour prey or predator.  The deep crusty snow further up may may favour cougars, coyotes and dogs – all able to run on the snow crust to bring down a calf or even an adult elk.  The elk down here can move easily and find food. I wonder if a cougar will follow them down.

Bull Elk on the Slocan River

Bull Elk on the Slocan River

Young Bull Elk - antlers just starting to grow

Young Bull Elk – antlers just starting to grow

Gardeners in Glade and the Slocan Valley are very familiar with the local elk – who have the reputation of walking through fences to get what they want from the garden. Sometimes even a determined dog and a tall fence is not enough to dissuade an animal as large as an elk from something as tasty as garden greens.

Young Bull Elk

Young Bull Elk

The elk in the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area feed frequently on those grasslands close to the safety of the woods. Sometimes, when I was doing field work on my bicycle I would come around a corner to see elk cows and their calves enjoying the fresh spring green.

They certainly are beautiful animals.

Bull Elk in the East Kootenays

Bull Elk in the East Kootenays

All photos and writing copyright Joanne Siderius 2013

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