Now is the time to see elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. Of course, so is July, and October, and May, just about any month of the year if you're on the eastern side of the park.
The large, strongly-herding Roosevelt Elk of the Olympic Peninsula are 'hanging in there'. Right now, they're in the high meadows, in the Park. As the weather turns, they will come down-country and spend the winter mostly outside the Park.
Our populations have taken a bit of a beating for some decades now. Not "bad", but the herds should be bigger. Reduction of logging is thought to play a dominant role. First we had the Post War Boom, a huge fire, then a tremendous blow-down storm (with massive subsequent salvage, but out-of-rotation), and a high-ball export-frenzy (for Japan & Korea).
As we 'naturally' went into a lull-phase of the cycle, the Spotted Owl regs then also removed a great deal of timberland from the planned harvest-rotation. Those stands are getting bigger & bigger .... and they have very little feed for deer & elk. It's the 'nuked' clearcuts, that really get cut-up with fresh elk-trails .... until the reprod gets big enough to shade out the ground again.
It would be worse, possibly much worse, except that it is grudgingly the 21st C, even on the Olympic Peninsula. Folks go easier on the game, nowadays. Folks leave sparse critter populations alone, even where they would be legal. Well, cougar twitching as they stare at grade-schoolers aren't encouraged.
We have many cases of one or 2 elk that show up in the winter, in the same places, walking in last year's paths, for literally decades now. Then they leave, after often only a fairly short visit. 'See ya next year'.
By now, it is obvious these can't be the same individual animals, although they act like it. In fact, oldsters listen to current reports, nod, and ask;. "Up the second creek, off that point"? You nod. "Mmhmm - there was always one, sometimes a 2nd, maybe a calf, that show up right in there. [stern glance:] You're not messing with it, are you?". "No"! Nod.
This has been going on, in a number of spots I know of personally, and in others reported by others, for a really long time. It smacks actually of the maintenance of an "ancestral" claim to the habitat, which the animals are taking pains to "freshen", each year.
In some cases, it is either known, or there is evidence, that in earlier times sizable populations were a major presence in specific locales, where now we see only the 'ritual' annual visits.
It almost gets a person glancing over their shoulder, and picking up their step a little.
it is wonderful to see elk returned to old haunts including Kentucky's land between the lakes, Wisconsin, Arkansas, the smokies and the blue ridge... and other places. I wonder how many people acknowledge that it wouldn't have happened without private support, largely from hunters through the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other animal conservation groups as opposed to "environmentalists" and animal welfare groups...
BTW, the elk rut viewing (and hearing) at RMNP is fabulous, whether you go up for a day or camp at Moraine Park for a longer period.
Very cool. We're glad to see them back in our neck of the woods as well here on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Smokies.
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