I spotted this young bull elk after having dinner one evening at the Dining Room at the Mammoth Hot Springs area of Yellowstone National Park. It was just sitting there in the tall grass. I thought that perhaps he was not feeling well. It was only when I got home that I realized that he had been wallowing in the mud. He might still be ill but I’m more inclined to think that perhaps he was in a fight with another male and therefore was exhausted.
Each fall, elk come to the Mammoth area to mate. This is also called the rutting season. During the rut, the bull elk are easily agitated and should be viewed from a distance. The rutting season is typically during September, with the middle of the month being the height of the season. A big mature bull will hold a herd of up to 30 cow elk. In this herd, there might be an occasional yearling bull (also called a “spike”) who might challenge the mature bull from time to time. These fights can be quite intense. Bull elk in the rut will dig out wallows in marshy grass, places where mud and water pool. There, they will thrash about to cool down, to chill the intensity of the rut. So, I’m convinced that this young bull elk was part of the fall rut and was simply trying to cool down.
This image was taken with my Canon EOS 7D Mark II using my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II Lens set on 100mm. The camera was set on Aperture Priority mode with the aperture set at f/4.5, shutter speed at 1/400th of a second and the ISO set at 400. I did not use a tripod for this image. This is a single image processed in Lightroom and Nik Color Efex Pro.
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