Elk on the way to school

Normally about 200 elk winter in the valley, and five years back in a particularly deep winter the wildlife biologists counted nearly 500.  This winter, there are plenty: I took these pictures from the car window on the way back from dropping Sam off at high school.  On the right side of the road is a herd of females.  


 Elk travel in such tight herds that they’re easy to tell from the horses or cattle.  They stick together when they’re grazing or moving, and when the herd lies down, their rumps look like a pile of boulders.   They can jump standard fences without even trying–an elk fence is 10 feet tall–and they’re big: a grown-up lady can weigh in at 500 pounds, while a studly male can be 700 pounds.  (They’re officially called cows and bulls, but I’m not sure that’s entirely respectful.)  I took these photos from the driver’s seat window, and then I rolled down the passenger seat window for this Mom and her yearling twins. 


She told them to scoot, seeing as the car was pulled onto the shoulder.

So they did. 


The elk are spending the winter in the valley near the river, like they always have.  But it’s a hard winter every year these days, not because they starve but because the cars kill so many.  

There was a car accident and a dead elk last night on the road to town.  These animals are too big to be left beside the road so the Department of Transportation has a special elk truck fitted with a winch and a bed that carries two elk with room to spare.  They got the first one moved fast, along with another than had been thrown into the ditch and frozen (the crows got there first).  


We’re OK at living with elk, but we’re not so good at driving with them. 

4 Responses to “Elk on the way to school”

  1. 1 Jackie W.

    Auto stores sell deer whistles for vehicles here in Kansas. They attach to the grill & only work @ 35 mph or faster.

    Wonder if they would work for elk ?

    If someone hits a deer they have the option of taking it to be processed. Is that an option with Elk ?

    Dear Jackie, The roadkilled elk in this valley go to the local food bank. Here, the person who runs into the elk isn’t allowed to eat it–don’t want to encourage bad behavior! Alice

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