Fitful Sleep

An elk bull is mostly hidden apart from his antlers as he sleeps in the tall grasses of a meadow at Yellowstone National Park

There were several aspects I wanted to capture in this picture of an elk in Yellowstone National Park. There’s a slightly comical aspect in that the sleeping bull is almost invisible save for his antlers which stick up out of the tall grass and completely betray his presence. The bull isn’t really trying to hide, but I wondered if he wouldn’t have preferred at that moment to be able to just take the antlers off while he slept, if only so he could lay his head wherever and however he liked.

I also wanted to convey the exhaustion the bulls feel at the end of the rut. He slept most of the time I watched him, but couldn’t resist raising his head and answering the call whenever another bull bugled in the distance. Fortunately all of the people watching him kept their distance so he was able to rest in the quiet periods. A couple of weeks before I visited, one of the bulls had its neck snapped while it was sparring with one of the other bulls. These fights usually aren’t fatal, but add in disease, predators, and the long winter, and I do wonder how many of the animals I see will still be around come spring.

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