CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS McLEAN
BY ABBIE KRAUSE
SPECIAL TO THE CHIEFTAIN
If you have been anywhere near the Pueblo Zoo in the last month or so, you will have heard the unmistakable bugle song of a male elk in rut.
Edwin is not shy, quiet, nor at this time of year, very clean. While his huge rack of antlers is a beauty to behold, his fur coat is a pretty disgusting mess of mud and urine — which, believe it or not, is attractive to female elk.
Rut is breeding season for elk and occurs in the fall. Only the largest and strongest of the bulls become herd bulls that will attract females and deter competing males. This is nature’s way of ensuring that only the best bulls breed and pass their genes to future generations.
To appear more massive and intimidating, a bull’s neck and hump may swell to twice the normal size and the hair on the mane will grow darker and longer. Pueblo Zoo guests may witness Edwin exhibiting aggressive behavior — an outstretched neck, raised hackles, deep bugling and the violent shaking of antlers. His loud and frequent bugles are intended not only to attract females but also to intimidate other bulls. Males that have a harem fight to protect it from other bulls, often sustaining major injuries in battles.
One of the primary outward signs of strength and an effective weapon is a large rack of antlers. Having large antlers is important for bulls because it lets females know that he is able to both find food and defend himself, qualities that are important for the success of her calves (see fact box for more info). To see a slideshow of the growth progression of Edwin’s antlers, go to pueblozoo. org.
The Pueblo Zoo is home to four elk — Edwin (male), Natasha and Elsie (females) are on exhibit in the northwest corner of the zoo in the Short Grass Prairie. Gladys, the oldest resident elk at 19 years old, is separated from the others due to her age and can be seen near the camel exhibit. She was a rehabilitation animal that was hand-reared by zookeepers.
Click here to see a photo timeline of Edwin