Elk Calf in Estes Park
It's that time of year again! Spring is welcomed by every creature as a time of renewal, rebirth, and an awakening as life returns to this, at times, harsh and demanding landscape. Once the grass is tall and lush, once the aspen leaf out, and once the rivers and streams are running strong from the snow melt, the elk begin giving birth! It's a truly magnificent time to be in the Estes Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park.
I was on my way home from the lodge yesterday afternoon when I noticed a cow laying in the grass maybe 50 yards to the west of Hwy 7 just south of Estes Park. I also noticed that she was eating what looked like a piece of plastic which I soon realized was the placenta still covering most of her newborn calf laying flat in the tall grass.
I rushed home, told my two young daughters about the baby and we strapped in and went to watch this miracle unfold before our eyes. When we arrived she was still cleaning the calf and hadn't moved. We settled in on the side of the road and watched for about half an hour.
She continued to lick and chew off the remaining placenta, bathe her little one, and every once in a while just nuzzle it. It was precious! We all got excited when the baby started trying to stand. Only one failed attempt led to a short but shaky walk a few feet from its mother before returning to nestle into her neck as she continued to bathe it.
It's these kind of scenes that make the harsh winters, and the promises that spring brings, all worth it. Seeing the snow capped giants in the background while enjoying the warm temperatures and lush green all around us in town, and getting to see one of the more anticipated events in our little world unfold before our eyes, all help to bring the cycle of the seasons, and of life, full circle.
Watching this calf begin its life reminded me of being honored enough to share life with Brat and see the end of his days play out along side us. I wondered where Brat was born. Where his mother taught him the ways of this land and raised him to be the strong and regal bull he became. I couldn't help but say a little prayer for this new life, the fulfillment of a promise, and hope that this elk lives a long time in this landscape we're lucky enough to share.