Thursday, November 19, 2020

Elk Encounter

 Celebrating a wildlife entertaining skijor with well-earned end of run treats:

Smiles all around :)

The highlight of yesterday morning's skijor? Elk encounter!!! 

When Jack and/or Rudy get a scent of wildlife nearby, I'll often let them drift to the side of the trail to peek into the forest for what has caught their attention. Since I can see there is nothing (such as a moose or elk) standing at the edge of the trail, it is safe to let us drift over and stare into the forest. Well, today was a bit different. It started out normal as Jack & Rudy wanted to drift to the trail edge to inspect the forest. As we were drifting over I saw what looked like a set of tree branches sticking up out of the snow and I thought, "That set of branches is so cool, it almost looks like antlers!" and I was getting set to get a photo of the antler looking branches. Then, as we got closer, the "branches stood up!" Oh my, it really was a set of antlers on the head of a big bull elk! The elk was laying down off the trail with only the tops of its antlers visible to us until we got closer and he stood up. Whoa! Needless to say, I was in panic mode getting Jack & Rudy reeled in and myself ready to hold them back. 

It's interesting that, despite how big elk are, they are very skittish, much like deer, and runaway quickly. A moose on the other hand (especially a bull) will stand ground and challenge you. But, bull elks apparently do not realize how big they are and they runaway quickly. Anyway, I eventually got myself, Jack & Rudy under control (as I was initially staring face to face with the elk). Once under control, I attempted to turn my chest to get the elk on the GoPro around my chest. He had already started running off by the time I got turned, so I do not have a photo of the impressive and scary initial "face to face" - here's what I did capture (click on the photo to enlarge):

Jack & Rudy staring at the big elk butt running into the forest at
the far right of this photo.

Still hard to see the elk in the prior photo, so here is a zoom into the far right of this photo:

There he is running away. Big "light brown" lower body and butt.
Dark brown shoulders & head with a big set of antlers on top!

How about a video of the encounter? Come along for a super slow motion clip to show the elk moving away once I am under control and able to point my chest towards him. Just watch Jack to see where to look and notice la-la-land Rudy isn't even looking the right direction to start but quickly syncs up with Jack and the elk :)

[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

After this elk close encounter, imagine my work in convincing Jack & Rudy to turn and go the direction AWAY from the elk (that was the direction we needed to go to get back to the trailhead). Well, after a some discussion about why to go the "wrong way", we started up the trail and encountered fresh moose tracks!!!!

We came by this section of trail on the way out only 20-30 minutes earlier
and there were no moose tracks!

Needless to say, the very fresh moose tracks got Jack & Rudy over going the wrong direction from the elk as we were now going the right direction for moose. We never encountered the recent moose, but it did help get the team going the intended direction with gusto :)

Oh yeah, we went skijoring today too:

Initially the conditions were thin and sketchy as were were on a trail
with constant sun exposure.
Once we got onto more protected terrain, though, it was perfect conditions
to run fast, hunt elk and search for moose :)

Whew, what an interesting close encounter of the elk kind yesterday morning! 6.6 miles traveled with 550 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2020/2021 Season to Date: 11 days on the trails covering 79.4 miles with 7350 feet of elevation climbed.

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