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Rut ends and same Alpha bull reigns -- 2016
Late October on the Elk lands at Oconaluftee and the herd has the same Alpha bull. A 3 year old bull almost managed to overcome the reign of the 8 year old Big Bull after his 3 year hold on the harem.
After much sparring and at times intense competiton, at the end the Old Bull held reign.
This year at Oconaluftee 12 calves are new to the herd. The rut over, the herd now in relative peace, calves fattening up for winter, cows in gestation, the bulls will soon spread out to Cherokee and beyond. We should see a herd of almost 30 over the winter on the Elk lands at Oconaluftee.
Mother cow and two month old calf
Elk returned to the Carolina mountains 15 years ago. There are
200 Elk in the Carolina Smokies. Spread out
the Elk are
probably going to
survive their first
grow into bulls,
and wander off on
own in their second
In summer the Elk
mating and the bulls
Calves are born in late spring. Barely able to walk they hide in the woods until able to walk. Before long they are eating grass but continue to nurse for months. It takes about one year for a calf to reach almost full size. One cow that recently died was estimated to have lived 22 years. Automobile collisions are the main killers of these Elk. There are few wolves or panthers in the Smokies. Bears have been known to prey upon calves, but once a calf can run, bears can't bother them.