Saturday, January 19, 2013

WILD WAPITI


When autumn comes to the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, the elk make their way down out of the mountains to the National Elk Refuge, a winter habitat set aside for them in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  The refuge was created in 1912 to provide sanctuary for the largest elk herd (around 7,500) on earth.

The elk are easy to see from the highway which goes between Jackson and Yellowstone.
 A heavy and high fence, seen here in the foreground, keeps them off the road.

Elk are second only to moose in size as a deer species.

The Shawnee called them, “wapiti” which means, literally, white rump.

The big bulls stand taller than five feet at the shoulder 
and their five-tined antlers tower almost four feet above their heads.

In March the bulls shed their antlers.  After the antlers fall off they walk around for quite a while with their heads down.  I don’t know if this is because the empty place leaves a sore spot or if they are just embarrassed to loose their handsome crowns.

In the winter they feed on grass and shrubs in the snow.

The meals are probably pretty yucchy compared to their 
summer menu of green leaves and branches.

The herd is kept alive during the hard winters through feeding.  The refuge also provides horse drawn sleigh rides to the public during the winter months so that visitors have the opportunity to see portions of the herd up close.

The National Elk Refuge covers nearly 25,000 acres of real estate right next to the tony town of Jackson where celebrities come to be seen at the two high-end ski resorts.  Personally, I think the elk and the landscape are the stars of the show.

11 comments:

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

They are beautiful creatures.

Alica said...

They are impressive animals. I think I'd walk with my head down too, after carrying that heavy load for such a long time!
That last shot is just gorgeous!

Terry and Linda said...

I do too. I would much rather see the elk. I'm surprised the sleigh isn't charged. I suppose elk don't charge, but I hear Moose will.

Linda
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

fishducky said...

Magnificent animals! You'd think they'd be happy to lose their antlers. They look pretty heavy--I know they'd give ME a headache!!

Linda Sue said...

They are the most beautiful delicious, (oops, did I say that) animals! I am so glad they are thriving there and protected. Nice shots Leenie!

Brian King said...

Your photos are fantastic! The bulls are so majestic! What gorgeous scenery, too! Nice work! We now have in excess of 10,000 elk here in Kentucky.

Anzu said...

Wow! w(*゚o゚*)w
I'm so surprised that they are strongly-built and have gorgeous antlers.
I'm looking forward to your picture of them against the sunset view.

laura.forestdreams:) said...

ooooh, what a site!! beautiful!

it's nice to hear they have a sanctuary to go to...and spend the winter in a safe place!

i LOVE those antlers! what a load to carry around...i bet they can get some pretty extreme neck aches!!

Jill said...

Couldn't agree more Leeny, great photos.

Pam said...

Wow - such interesting photos. Glad they have a sanctuary.

frayedattheedge said...

I would rather see the elk than celebrities!! Fabulous photos, especially the ones of the magnificent antlers.