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Have you ever heard an elk bugle?  I have, but only on NPR.  It is one of the things on my list of Things I Want To See or Do.  The bull elks do it during the mating season in the fall, also known as “the rut.”   It sounds just like the name, imagine a student of the bugle attempting to hit a very high note for as long as he can for the very first time.   I think of it as elk opera and it is beautiful, sad and mournful.  He is begging for women but he is also bemoaning the end of summers bounty and the coming freeze of winter, a metaphor of life and death.  

This youtube video will give you a good idea of what I’m talking about!

In case you’ve never seen one, elk are just like your average deer except someone fed them a LOT of steroids.  They are big impressive animals with the ability to do serious damage to you or your car should either one be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I’m out on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, home to several herds of Roosevelt elk that are protected and considered a sub species because of their isolation from the “mainland.”  Yes, even though this place is called a peninsula, for all intents and purposes it is an island connected physically to the mainland by thin ribbons of land.  If  you want to get here you’ll pretty much need to take a ferry or cross the Tacoma Narrows bridge.  Anyone who lives and drives in deer country can appreciate how potentially damaging an encounter with a big elk could be (major).  Elk not only are larger than ordinary deer but apparently they run in greater, better defined herds with some elk  clearly leaders/front runners of their herds and they appear to follow well established route behaviors.  These predictable routes sometimes cross roads and both elk and human lives were regularly lost until someone got a very bright idea.  

Modern technology and old fashioned smarts combined and now the leaders of the elk herd are fitted with special collars that activate flashing highway crossing signals when they come near, warning motorists to slow or stop.  Brilliant, no?  No need to collar them all, just the leaders!  And because the  lights only flash when the elk are close,  motorists take them seriously.  I got out to elk territory a little too late this year to hear them in person, but someday I vow to hear a bull elk sing.

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