Elk in Yellowstone National Park

elk velvet

© Shawn Coggins

This is the infamous Bull Elk number 6, in velvet stage May 2008, in Yellowstone National Park. Number 6 had his rack cut off by the NPS in 2004 and in 2005. I was in Mammoth in 2005 shortly after this elk had gored a tourist who according to reports walked out of a building in Mammoth while Number 6 was standing outside the door. Number 6 was known for attacking cars and staking out homes. One of the waitresses in Mammoth described having to crawl out the back window of her room as Number 6 has staked out the front door. Elk Number 6 died in 2009 early in February according to a press release from Yellowstone National Park.
"Number 6, and his regular sparring partner Number 10, were both ear tagged several years ago. Number 6 had his antlers removed in August 2004 and again in August 2005 in an effort to reduce the danger he posed to park visitors. Number 10 was last seen in the Mammoth Hot Springs area shortly after the rut concluded. . . A necropsy indicated that bull was at least 15 years old and weighed 725 pounds. Elk have an average life span of 13 to 18 years, with bulls typically topping the scales at 700 pounds. His rack, although diminished in size from previous years, still gross scored an impressive 356-5/8 on the Boone and Crockett scale. At his peak, the animal would certainly have been considered a “trophy” by elk hunters."

bull elk mammoth springs

Bull elk resting above Mammoth campground. © Shawn Coggins

Yellowstone National Park is justifiably famous for its wildlife. This photo was taken in the fall of 2002 with my first true digital SLR camera. It was after photographing this elk that I ordered a quick release for my tripod. Bull Elk during particularly during rut do not like being closed in by photographers and will chase those who get to close.

wolf waiting for the kill

Face off between female wolf and female elk. © Shawn Coggins

This photo was taken between Mammoth and Tower Falls. The elk had an injured leg so the wolf pack played a waiting game. The elk after several hours wandered out of sight over the hill. So I went hiking on the Beaver Lake Trail out of Mammoth. The wolf if you look closely is collared. The rest of the wolf pack was resting nearby in the shade. The next day when I returned there was a coyote feasting on the elk carcass. Discovered that the elk and the wolf pack returned to this little lake around 4 am to finish their business.

coyote defending elk carcas from magpie wolf killed crippled elk the day before  © Shawn Coggins

YouTube coyote eating wolf killed elk carcass. I didn't get back to this area until late the next day. By then there wasn't much left of the elk carcass. One of the side benefits of photographing wildlife in the fall in Yellowstone National Park, ok sometimes its not a benefit, is the profusion of camera gear. Canon has clearly won the wildlife camera battle in Yellowstone National Park. The benefit is that a lot of the photographers are friendly and are willing to let an old codger like me try out various equipment options. After this trip to Yellowstone National Park I upgraded my camera body and got a 2X converter. I still have both items. The photo of the lunar eclipse over Glacier National Park, shown at the bottom of this page, was shot with the 2X converter and the 20D Canon digital SLR camera.

Yellowstone National Park has an abundance of wildlife, both furry and feathered.

logo bighorn Yellowstone Park © Shawn Coggins
I camp usually for two weeks when I'm at Yellowstone. If you want to find a campsite in Yellowstone then be prepared to look for a campsite before 10 am. There are a lot of visitors to Yellowstone but it doesn't take a lot of effort to get away from the crowds in the fall, most visitors stick to within a few hundred feet of the roads. Unlike in Glacier National Park, the wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is generally habituated to human contact. (this does NOT mean the wildlife is TAME) Yellowstone National Park closes campgrounds by the calendar not by how busy the campground is when they close it. Norris Campground in the fall is a perfect example, it is full up to the very day that the park closes it.

bull elk outside my tent at Norris, Yellowstone Park © Shawn Coggins

I prefer to start the fall camping season at Norris Campground, the bull elk shown above was photographed next to my tent. When you're camping in Yellowstone you have to think about where to pitch your tent. Pay attention to trails, don't mistake game trails for human trails like I've done at Norris. Two years earlier I had been camping at Norris Campground and returned to my campsite to take a short break. The camper next to my tent site was laughing, seems I missed a buffalo that had traveled in between our two tents. Luckily the buffalo didn't become tangled in tent ropes.

Just as it is difficult to visit Glacier National Park and not see a mountain goat, it's next to impossible to visit Yellowstone National Park and not see a bull elk. (whether the bull elk has a rack is dependent on time of year)

Elk in Yellowstone National Park