One of the oddest sounds you might encounter in a national park at this time of year is the high-pitched squeal of elk. Better known as "bugling," to me this sound is as magical as that of a wolf howl hanging in the air. It's auditory "wildness."
Among the many parks where you can hear bugling elk are Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and a park perhaps better known for its subterranean wonders -- Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. In fact, head to Wind Cave this month and the rangers will even lead you out into the park to listen to the elk.
Throughout September, Wind Cave rangers are giving brief interpretive programs about elk before leading a caravan to a nearby pullout to listen for them. These programs are offered Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings through September 26. Participants meet at the aptly named Elk Mountain Campground Amphitheater at 7 p.m. and are encouraged to bring a flashlight, a blanket to sit on, and to dress warmly.
“Even if you have heard elk bugling before, there is something about listening to this eerie sound echoing out of the darkness that makes a repeat trip worthwhile,” says Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Davila. “It is truly one of nature’s wild sounds.”
You can listen to an elk bugling at this site: http://www.nps.gov/archive/wica/Sounds/Elk_Bugling.wav
The fall ranger program schedule at Wind Cave also includes Natural Entrance Tours of Wind Cave throughout the day. Participants are encouraged to bring a light coat or sweater and good walking shoes. The tour lasts approximately 75 minutes and involves 300 stairs, most of which are going down. The park visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through September 26.
Beginning September 27 through October 17, hour-long tours of the Garden of Eden area are offered at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. and the visitor center is open until 5 p.m. The park’s winter interpretive schedule begins on October 18 with tours of the Garden of Eden at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. and visitor center hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.