Bow Valley elk back in rut
Thursday, Sep 11, 2014 06:00 am
It is that time a year again and if you have heard the bugle calls of male elk in the valley, you know it is the annual rut.
The fall mating season for the species is one that has wildlife officials reminding residents and visitors in the mountain parks to keep their distance from bull elk and their cows.
Banff National Park human wildlife conflict specialist Blair Fyten said it’s important to stay at least 30 metres away from the animals and definitely don’t get between a male and female elk.
“The herd dynamics change a little bit and the bulls get a little bit more aggressive,” Fyten said. “They get protective of their cows, so if people get in their space they will challenge you.”
During the rutting period males rub their antlers on trees to remove the velvet, fight each other and try to establish herds of female elk. Fyten said it is also important to keep dogs on leash, as they look like a predator to elk and can provoke an attack.
If someone however, is charged or encounters an aggressive bull, wildlife officials recommend backing up and making yourself look as big as possible. Fyten said, for example, to wave a coat or stick in the air above your head.
The fact that elk and other ungulates like mule deer are rubbing the velvet from their antlers this time of year is also a reminder for residents to remove things that can entangle the animals, like Christmas lights and swings.
“If people have Christmas lights up or swings, something an elk might rub up against to get that velvet off, they might get caught up in those kinds of things,” Fyten said.
In fact, a bull elk rubbing the velvet from his antlers a few weeks ago was caught up in a string of lights. Fyten said the animal eventually freed himself of the garland, but in the past some animals have had to be tranquilized and their antlers removed.
He said those living on the fringe areas of Banff with swing sets may want to take them down at this time of year for the same reason. The Town of Banff removes its swing sets in parks every Sept. 1 to avoid ungulates getting entangled.
“We still have an active patrol first thing in the morning and the evening when elk are active and start to move into town a little bit,” Fyten added. “We have a proactive program at work where we patrol the fringe areas of town and if we come across any elk, we haze them off out of town.”
To report an aggressive elk or any other wildlife conflicts in Banff National Park call 403-762-1470.