Bugling Elk

CANADA, Jasper National Park - Bugling elk (Cervus elaphus)

The image above shows a bugling elk in Jasper National Park, Canada, with traces of fresh wounds that it probably suffered in a fight with another bull.

During the mating season in the Fall, bull elk (Cervus elaphus) are used to bugling, that is sending out long, high-pitched rutting calls that can be heard for miles to attract cows or threaten other bulls. Bugling is often associated with the opening of the elk’s preorbital gland to release a scent that should further attract cows.

At that time of the year (September/October), bulls are nervous and aggressive, and this often reflects in their behavior, such as when they stick the tips of their antlers into the ground to dig holes, spray urine or even engage in battles with other bulls over cows or to establish dominance.

Especially during mating season, it is important to be cautious approaching elk because getting too close may (and often will) result in becoming victims of an elk charge or even worse being gored by elk. Photographers and wildlife enthusiasts should not invade the animal’s comfort zone and be watchful for body signs that may signal stress in the animal and the risk of an imminent attack, such as stomping the hooves on the ground, lowering the ears, strutting, etc.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)


18 thoughts on “Bugling Elk

  1. ChgoJohn

    Such majestic animals and your photos are quite beautiful. Although I’ve seen moose, I’ve yet to see elk and can only imagine the thrill. It amazes me that the rut occurs just as Winter is about to begin. I realize that it is in the calves’ best interests but it sure puts the bulls in a fix, heading into Winter drained and often injured. Many of those you captured bore wounds and scars. An old buck has to be a strong buck, to be sure.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you for you always so meaningful comments, John.
      You are right, during rut many bulls get injured and I guess it is kind of survival of the fittest. I read somewhere that in captivity elk live to about 20 years old, while in the wild they only make it to about 12-13 years of age, which seems to confirm what you are saying.
      Anyway, they really are majestic and powerful animals.
      Take care

  2. Maria Dernikos

    Your photograph captures the expression on his face beautifully the way his neck is positioned etc. With his wounds evident in the picture, my imagination can only think that he is bugling his triumph to all.

  3. Nature on the Edge

    Love the terminology – “bugling”… Heard deer in rut and was amazed at the voice projection 🙂 Those antlers sure can thrust and gore. What a process to become King of the Rut.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thanks for your comment! Very true, and yes their call does travel far – kind of eerie sounding too, especially since they tend to be the most active at the fringes of the day.

  4. wildermanonrollingcreek

    Hey – Stefano, this picture is really great. Should I be surprised? I am fortunate to see Elk throughout the year where I live. My family … we live @ 8800 feet near Pike National Forest. To hear the elk bugling is one of the most beautiful sounds. I really like your work.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you so much for your kind comment: you live in a beautiful place and you are so fortunate to have easy access to so majestic an animal!
      Take care


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