Elk rut season starts in Rocky Mountain National Park

Annual meadow closures begin Sept. 1 for the elk's mating season

Beginning Sept. 1, Rocky Mountain National Park will institute meadow closure to protect elk during mating season. Pictured: Kahuna, a large bull elk that was venerated by visitors and locals, takes care of his harem in Rocky Mountain National Park. Kahuna passed away in 2022.
Dawn Wilson/Courtesy Photo

Fall is quickly approaching, meaning that elk are about to enter their mating season, also known as the elk rut.

Beginning Sept. 1, annual meadow closures go into effect in Rocky Mountain National Park to prevent park visitors from disturbing elk during their rut. A news release from the park stated that meadow closures are also in place to enhance wildlife viewing experiences for all park visitors.  

According to the release, meadow closures are in place between the hours of 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. Meadow areas that are closed include Horseshoe Park, Upper Beaver Meadows, Moraine Park, Harbison Meadow, and Holzwarth Meadow. During the specified hours, these areas are closed to all travel on foot or via horseback off established roadways and established trails. 

Fishing locations along the Fall River, Thompson River and Colorado River that are accessed by walking through closed areas are closed to fishing between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. These closures will remain in place through Oct. 31. 

Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular location for visitors to watch the elk rut. It is home to over 3,000 elk in the fall months. The peak of the rut usually lasts from mid-September to mid-October. During rut, visitors can hear bull elk make their famous bugle. This is a magnificent call to attract their mate, which includes a mixtures of sounds, including screeching and shouting. They also spar with other bulls for dominance – the winner earns the right to mate.

“The scene of tens to hundreds of elk in one location, flanked by spectacular mountain scenery and fall colors, is hard for most folks to resist,” the park wrote on their website. “The sounds of bull elk bugling add to the spectacle.”

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