Rocky Mountain National Park Off The Beaten Path Tips by richiecdisc Top 5 Page for this destination
Rocky Mountain National Park Off The Beaten Path: 18 reviews and 28 photos
cute yes, feed no
Ground squirrels, much like squirrels are the entertainers of the forest but what to us is entertainment, for the chipmunk is the work of storing food for the winter. They just move so fast it appears comical to us but make no mistake, these are serious omnivores whose diet includes nuts, insects, grain, small frogs, fungi, worms and bird eggs. One of the things that makes them so cute is also one of its greatest food-gathering assets. Their cheek pouches expand their entire face but make it possible for them to carry a lot more food to their dens or food caches.
These cute critters play an important part in the ecosystems they are part of and feeding them is a selfish way to get a photo or make yourself feel like a do-gooder. You are actually hurting them by forging bad habits and taking them from what they were put on this planet to do. We know deep down that a carrot is better for us than a candy bar but many still choose the latter. Chipmunks do not know candy bars and the like unless we expose them to them. Let ground squirrels eat what is right for them and keep man-made garbage solely for polluting our own bodies.
While camping at Odessa Lake, I was nearly attacked by a ground squirrel. Ok, stop laughing. It wasn't really an attack but it did run right up my back when I had it turned to the little critter. He was looking for a hand out and had obviously gotten many or he would not be so aggressive. Do NOT feed wildlife, please.
the call of the wild
The rutting and mating seasons are very much intertwined. Though rutting sounds like two big males ramming into each others head, the term rut comes from the Latin for “roar.” Also known as bugling which is perhaps more descriptive of its sound, it is the sound made by males to intimidate each other as well as attract females. Appropriately enough, though younger males and even females can emit the sound, the large bulls have the most fierce bugle. It is thought to be a form of physical release for this big males during this highly stressful period where they are run ragged defending their turf.
This was one of the real highlights of our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in late September 2008. We would lie in our tent and listen to this magnificent calls of nature all night. Sometimes it sounded like a bull was right by our tent and surely elk were wandering through our campground as it was in one of the best places to observe the rutting season, Moraine Park.
the cute couple
As Autumn falls upon Rocky National Park, elk descend from higher elevations to more expansive meadows for the annual mating season. This is when the largest males, often weighing in at more than 1000 lbs, start to strut their stuff and scare off smaller competitors with their impressive antlers. They become quite territorial about their “harems” and spend all their energy defending them from rivals. Luckily, actual fights are rare, the animals realizing the potential for life-threatening injury. In general, the smaller animals defer to the larger ones though they still like to test the waters for when their time comes.
We enjoyed watching this routine every morning and evening during our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in late September 2008. It seemed the big males would never have enough energy to actually mate with all the running around they had to do. They seemed positively exhausted at times and they are particularly susceptible to the hardships of winter which are upon them no sooner than the mating season is over.
elk are big animals, really
The North American Elk, not to be confused with the European Elk, which is really the North American Moose here. Where is here? Confused yet? Well, I was the first time someone started calling what I call a moose an elk. I don't actually mind a different name, it's just confusing when it's the same name as the one I use for something else. At the end of the day, it's just another big deer, right? Well, not as big a member of the deer family as the moose but still plenty big. And don't start calling them reindeer either, that's caribou here in North America and they are just not the same though they look a lot more like that than a moose, which looks quite a bit like a horse come to think of it, not to confuse you. ;)
So, the North American Elk is one of the largest members of the deer family and can reach 5 feet at the shoulder and weigh 1000 lbs. Males grow antlers each spring and prepare to rut and mate in fall. They drop them in winter to conserve energy as these bony appendages grow up to an inch a day! Man, just imagine if they did not shed them and its implications on the following mating season!
The Rocky Mountain National Park population is a great success story. Hunted to extinction by 1890 by settlers to the Estes Park area for their meat, 49 elk were brought from Yellowstone before the area was a national park. To further the cause, many of their natural predators like grizzlies and wolves were hunted to elimination. This led to a swift rebound and today, there are estimated to be 3200 elk in summer and early fall.
While we had seen elk in many of the national parks over the summer of 2008, the most sensational sightings were by far in Rocky Mountain National Park in September of that year.
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