Blog about Wintering Elk

We are thrilled that a herd of about 50 Elk are wintering here in the Flathead Valley just about 5 miles south of our house.  Apparently, this is a common occurrence, as they winter out here in the Flathead Valley every year, according to some of the ‘Montana Natives’.  (anyone here that has had the same zip code for more than 5 years, we consider a ‘Native’)  It is so awesome to drive just a few miles and see a herd of this many Elk.   They do keep their distance!  They must know the dates of hunting season really well and know the range of the modern rifle…………

Snow Trails

We enjoy seeing the ‘Snow Trails’ left by the Elk wondering around looking for a tinder shoot of grass.  Elk are always in search of food because it provides energy that helps them regulate their body temperatures.  Elk are generalists about what they eat.  They are adapted to eating nutritionally deficient grasses as well as nutritious shrubs.  The line of trees behind the Elk in this photo provide needed shelter at night and they often bed down in the middle of the day in these small wood lots.

Using the Gate

Notice the gate in the lower center of the photo and how the Elk tracks show that they use it often, even though they could easily jump the fence.  Lazy critters!!!  It is interesting to see them ‘paw’ huge snow clouds as they uncover the grasses.  They have to eat a lot of this dead grass as it contains little nutrition for them.  So, ‘Pig Out’ must be the phrase that they are going by as every head is down eating.

Notice the Antlers

The males have already lost their antlers and have started growing a new set for this Autumn.  That takes a lot of energy to do.  I would think that some of them, the Lazy Ones, would consider keeping last years set for a second year instead of growing a new set every year.  Especially since the last years set were still just fine……….Hmmmm, you never know what is going through an Elk’s mind.

Furry Collars 

In Winter,  the Elk can withstand temperatures down to 40 below without much of a problem, as long as they are healthy and have a food supply.  They wool-like parka’s are five times warmer than their summer coats.  The winter coat consist of two layers:  thick, long guard hairs and a dense undercoat.  On the inside, guard hairs look like a honeycomb.  Thousands of tiny air pockets fill each hair, making them waterproof and warm.  Talk about insulation value!  Their warm winter coat is so thick that it can keep snow from melting on an Elk’s back.

Typical Feeding Frenzies 

Elk can make their hair stand on end, trapping more air and creating an even thicker coat to keep them warm on really cold days.  But, really, what would you call a ‘really cold day’ as anything below 65 degrees for me is a really cold day……….  They even tuck their legs beneath them when they lay down so to lose less hear through their legs, chest and belly.

Antlers Growing

The large Male in this photo has already gotten a good start on a nice pair of antlers for this Autumn.  Sure seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to make yourself look good for the Ladies…………  This group is coming out to feed on the dead grasses in the open from the woodlot that they have been ‘snoozing’ through the day.  They feed mostly in the early morning and late evening.

Derailed I get this way often……….

A few days ago, or it could be a few months ago as time and I just don’t get along, I started to go to bed.  Debbie had gone to bed earlier and the lights were off and I did not want to turn them on and wake her so I was getting undressed in the dark.  Hmmmm, when I was younger, not that long ago, I did not remember this being an issue……  But, as I was taking my shirt off, I had forgotten that I had the Fob for the Prius in my pocket, OK so you never forget anything.  So, in this process, I dropped the Fob on the floor.  No big deal, just take a step back and surely with the light from the nightlight (yes, I sleep with a nightlight, so what) but somehow, still have not found it.  I stepped on the Fob, setting off the car alarm and the horn started beeping.  To say the least, Debbie had put in her ear plugs, because of my snoring, at least she says I do, I think it is just a ploy, so she was sleeping right on through this…  As I was crawling around on the floor frantically trying to find the Fob to turn the alarm off, I thought about how thankful I was that we don’t have any close neighbors.  Finally, I found it and shut off the horn before Debbie woke and I finally made it to bed.  At times I think I don’t get enough exercise and then I think about these unusual things that I am faced with and I think ‘who needs a gym?’ anyway.

A trip up the North Fork

Debbie and I enjoy going up what we call the North Fork for the awesome scenery.  It is an enjoyable drive and we see Deer and Elk along the way as well as continually watching for Moose and Bear.  You never know what you will see.  What we call the North Fork is a highway that goes from Columbia Falls up to Polebridge.  We don’t usually go that far up unless it is summer and the gravel roads have been recently graded (which rarely happens).  Often we go up to the Camas Road and take it into Glacier National Park and back home on US-2.  Anyway, getting off the subject, oh, do I have a subject???

Snow Cover  

We like to watch the snow cover on the mountains to see what to expect from the Spring Thaw…………  This year, is seems to us that we have been seeing a lot less snow cover on the mountains than last year.  So, we expect that the rivers will not get as high as last year and not be up that long before returning to ‘normal levels’, whatever that is…

Still, lots of snow

Still there is lots of snow up there to melt.  We are in hopes of an awesome Summer, as all of the Montana Summers, so maybe we should be in hopes of a usual Montana Summer, as a usual Montana Summer is awesome anyway….


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