Any local will tell you that one of their favorite times of the year around West Yellowstone and Yellowstone Park is September and October during the Elk Mating Season (rut). This is when the males are vying for the females’ attention. During this time the herds can be found in the northern range, including Mammoth Hot Springs and along the Madison River.
We can assure you that listening to the sound of their bugle is a unique experience (for some, once in a lifetime). It starts as a low, long moan and grows into several high-pitched grunts. (Video here: http://bit.ly/2bT46Ed). You will often hear several bulls bugling back and forth across the valleys, almost like a synchronized concert. Sometimes the mating ritual will also lead to sparring matches between bulls to establish their dominance of the herds.
Yellowstone provides summer range for an estimated 10,000–20,000 elk, from 6–7 herds, most of which winter at lower elevations outside of the park. Males (bull) weigh about 700 pounds and are about 5 feet high at the shoulder; females (cow) weigh about 500 pounds and are slightly shorter; calves are about 30 pounds at birth. Bulls have antlers, which begin growing in the spring and usually drop in March or April of the next year. Calves are born in May to late June, with spots like their smaller deer cousins.
Local tip: Elk seem docile, but they can move quickly. When threatened they will grunt and posture. If the threat persists they can react with their antlers or by kicking – they have been known to head butt a vehicle or two, leaving dents. Please obey wildlife safety rules by staying at least 25 yards or more from the animals, especially those with young.
For more information about West Yellowstone in the fall: http://bit.ly/1OQ6IlZ