Today, elk #16 is no longer the man! If you’re coming in cold, this is the drama that’s going on now in Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina side. The elk are in their full rut (mating season).
On Monday, elk #67 (pictured above) stole all the cows away from #16. I missed that since my shift is on Tuesday but the Elk Bugle Corp (EBC) message board was all a buzz about it. #16 is larger than #67, so why did this happen?
There was more drama when I got there the next day. Elk #67 rounded up all his cows in the field next to the Caldwell house barn. I watched as #16 slinked back in the woods by himself. I had to watch the visitors as well but they were so thrilled to see this that no one ran out in the field. There already was a traffic jam on the dirt road toward the end of the valley so I asked everyone who came to park and watch. Some visitors were eager to drive to the end and walk to the Woody House, including me. Finally, all the elk left and I walked to the Woody House.
I met several visitors on the trail and told them to make sure to see the bats. Once at the house, I usually walk around and check if any window panes are broken or any other repairs need to be made. I was so busy looking at the house that I almost stepped on a snake (above).
When I got back to my car and the Caldwell House, the drama continued. #16 came back with a couple of cows. By now, #67 had taken all his cows on the other side of the road. People were watching on the Caldwell House bridge, though Pat, another volunteer, thought that was not a good idea since the bull elk could charge at any moment. The cows with #16 did not stay with him long. One was nursing her calf and then bolted across the road. The other followed. I assume that #16 has lost all his women now.
This is like Peyton Place and all the cliches that we use for humans are true here:
Following the herd
Young buck (shown above)
The biggest and most powerful male attracts all the girls….
I wrote about #16 for my writing class and read a few sentences about it aloud. Everyone thought I was writing fiction. No one realized that they could have a ring side seat to this free show in our national park.
The drama continues …