The Sound of Autumn
Have you ever heard the bugle of the bull elk during the fall rut? It’s a thrilling, yet haunting experience that draws thousands of visitors to Yellowstone each fall. It’s an experience unlike any other in the park, with elk bugling ranging from low throaty sounds or a series of deep grunts to high pitch whistles.
Each fall, the elk gather in the Northern Range of Yellowstone at Mammoth Hot Springs and the Madison River to “rut” or mate. During this time the mature bulls (which weigh around 700 pounds) are full of testosterone, competing for mating rights. Bulls fight for the position to gather as many females as possible in their harem. These bulls show their dominance through aggressive displays like bugling and striking items like trees, bushes (or sometimes even cars) with their antlers. Occasionally, they will even battle with one another by clashing antlers. The bull that wins the fight often takes control of the herd.
Once the rut ends, the males tend to retreat back to a solitary life and the females give birth in late spring.
Be aware that during this time, male elk can be highly aggressive and will charge cars and people. DO NOT approach on foot or in your vehicle. Keep a distance of at least 25 yards. Safety should always be a visitors’ number one priority when visiting Yellowstone during the elk rut. And when all of the proper safety precautions are taken, it can be one of the park’s most enthralling and memorable wildlife viewing experiences.
Interested in observing the elk rut for yourself? Join us in fall with the Fall Elk and Wolf Discovery Package, and team up with a Yellowstone Forever Institute wildlife biologist to observe Yellowstone’s marquee predator and prey species.