Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9/13 Elk Herd Update -- Setup for Fight on South End

This morning two herds have moved close together setting the stage for a bullfight. Two pretty good herd bulls have good sized harems very close to one another (see map down by Smith Mountain Road).

One of the bulls is Godzilla, the second a big bull, as yet unnamed. These two squared off in front of me this morning but did not fight. Godzilla made the choice to move his harem rather than fight, but they remain very close together. I really thought there would be a fight.

The way to predict bull fights is to understand the proximity of big bulls with harems. Bull elk don't prefer to fight, but they have little choice if their herds are close together. Besides fighting, herd bulls will also space themselves apart as they establish their harems. What is different about this situation is that they are forced together by the geography of this location -- less than a half mile apart (as I write this).

Like a weatherman, I can say the percentages are great for a bull fight down there. It is also quite possible Godzilla will lead his harem away from the area. What will happen is anyone's guess.

The other bull of note, Hacksaw is in the field behind the Villines Store, the little stone building about a half mile south of the observation pullout. His harem seems safe at this point. At any time, a new herd bull could migrate to him for a challenge.

The hormones are flowing. There was bugling the entire length of the valley this morning. The bulls are on the move, some with harems, some seeking harems. This is the sweet spot of rut for bull fights. For the next couple of weeks bull elk will be determining the lineup of successful herd bulls.

If you hope to see or photograph a bull elk fight in Boxley Valley, the setup now at the south end is about as good as you will see. There are no guarantees, but this is definitely prime time, and on the south end, the percentages are great.

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