Colorado mountain town sees invasion of elk

Elk in Estes Park. Photo Credit: Dougal Brownlie; The Gazette.

The elk are back in town.

Colorado rut season is in full force right now. The invasion of elk in Estes Park has officially started, which typically occurs every year from mid-September to mid-October. Visitors and locals can expect to see hundreds of wild elk roaming freely throughout the small mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado.

Locals and visitors wake to the sounds of bugling elk. The high-pitched roars can be heard all over the town. It sounds like a squealing trumpet, but it’s really their way of attracting cows and displaying dominance to other bulls. Take a listen here. Elks also express dominance by displaying their antlers, necks, and bodies. In some cases, they even fight for dominance – locking antlers for a chance to mate with a female.

According to park staff, the elk rut is in full swing. You’ll find elk roaming in the parks, on the golf course, sidewalks, and even crossing the street – it’s a rare and wild sight to see. Here’s a look at why there are so many elk in Estes Park in the first place.

While these magnificent creatures can be found in Rocky Mountain National Park all year long, every fall hundreds of elk descend from high country terrain into the montane meadows for their annual breeding season. Kawuneeche Valley, Horseshoe Park, Moraine Park, and Upper Beaver Meadows have also been noted as popular viewing areas.

Colorado is home to the largest elk population in the world. It’s estimated that there are 280,000 elk in the Centennial State.

Beware the elk

The elk tend to be more aggressive this time of the year. Bull elks can weigh up to 1,100 pounds and stand five feet at the shoulder, so you’ll want to keep your distance. Wildlife should never be approached or harassed. When it comes to observing elk from a safe distance, Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends following the rule of thumb. Generally, this means you are more than 25 yards away from elks and other big game.

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