Call of the Wild


As you travel through Yellowstone in autumn, stop often to listen for one of the most haunting sounds in nature—the bugle of a bull elk. His high pitched, melodic call echoes off of the canyons and hills of the park, and the final grunts finish off his vocal advertisement to all around that he is ready for the rut, or the mating season.

To a female elk, known as a cow, the bugle provides clues to the size and fitness of a bull. Each bull’s bugle is different, but generally the older, larger bulls bugle more loudly than younger bulls.

Bugling often precedes a sparring match. During these matches, bulls lock antlers and shove each other until one retreats. Their sparring matches are shows of strength, not battles to the death.

All this action begins in September and goes on through the month, tapering off into October. Enjoy the sounds and sights of the elk mating season, but remember to keep yourself safe. Stay far away from them and use binoculars to view the action.

Information provided by the National Park Service

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