Elk Encounters


It’s another Canadian wildlife encounter this morning, and what an encounter.

We were lucky enough to see Elk 3 times on our trip. It was the rutting season, so there were more chances to see them. The first encounter was from, what felt like, miles away. As you can see below, a stag was with a group of hinds and was bugling to another stag. However, the challenger really wasn’t up for the fight and never came close. We felt honoured to have seen these large deer, and witnessed a glimpse of the rut, even from a long way off.

The second was a much closer sighting, very early in the morning when we were driving to a walk. It was actually pretty dark, so the photo opportunities weren’t great and there was no bugling going on. In fact, all was pretty calm with this lone stag. We were close enough (maybe 30 feet away) to get a sense of the size and power of these wonderful animals.

Our last sighting however, was a real surprise. We’d had lunch in Canmore and had just left town to start driving home when we came across a car stopped in the middle of the road. Patience started to wear thin, until we spotted a group of elk hinds right by the side of the road, maybe 10 feet away from us. All annoyance disappeared in an instance, we pulled in and I grabbed the camera.

In order to get better photographs I opened the sun roof and stood up, so I was out in the open air and Carol wound her window down to get extraordinary views; the closest we’d ever got to any wild deer anywhere. It was then that we spotted the stag, and it was coming our way. 

He was bugling like crazy (what a sound!) and getting closer and closer to us. He stopped about 15 feet away and proceeded to destroy a young tree with his antlers, literally ripping it out of the ground.

He then came even closer.. and closer, until he was about 3 feet away from us. It was then I realised, in a way I hadn’t really realised before, these animals are MASSIVE!!! They stand about 25% taller (at the shoulder) than red deer, usually about 5ft, and about 65% heavier, around 330kg. I’m about 6ft 2 and 73kg.

I was stood up inside the car, with most of me poking out of the sun roof, and I realised I was looking UP at his antlers. I was awed by his size and also became more than a little unnerved. This animal could do the car (or me!) some serious damage. Carol, I realised, had sensibly closed her window a while ago and was encouraging me to please sit down. This magnificent creature was seriously fired up on a potent cocktail of adrenaline and testosterone, he also seemed to be looking directly at me. I quickly heeded Carol’s advice and retreated into the car, closing the sunroof and trying to calm my own adrenaline rush, for entirely different reasons.

I’ve no idea if I’ll be able to capture any fraction of the scale, awe and humbling nature of this encounter, but I’ve no doubt I’ll be trying to do these magnificent creatures justice at some stage!

All the best,


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