With animals, children, and life in general, seems like the most amazing things are unrehearsed, unplanned and spontaneous. (This was definitely a spontaneously filmed documentary.)
Over the last week I’ve been in Cataloochee Valley with the family. The location is isolated, surrounded by 6000-foot peaks and was one of the largest and most prosperous settlements in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
One of the huge attractions in recent years have been the reintroduction of Elk. Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian mountains prior to the 1700s. They were eliminated from the region by over-hunting and loss of habitat.
According to the National Park Service, one of their primary missions is to preserve native plants and animals on lands it manages. Reintroduction of elk into Great Smoky Mountains National Park seemed a natural fit and began in 2001 when 25 elk were brought from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. Since then, they have continued to thrive in the area.
As you’ll see, these animals are large and can be very dramatic against the beauty of the valley. During the fall breeding season, known as “rut”, the Bulls make their legendary bugling calls to challenge each other and attract cows. Large bulls use their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. I spoke with the local Biologist, who has witnessed these guys kill each other by breaking their opponents backbone. I didn’t realize it was that serious and glad it didn’t come to that! Most encounters between Bulls happen after dark, are ritualistic and involve little physical contact. Which makes this battle at sunset even more spectacular.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t geared-up very well. Only having my 7d and the 85 1.8. Shooting handheld made it difficult especially with the adrenaline rush from watching this guys duke it out. (You’ll notice the “Camera Smooth” I had to apply)
Thankfully, I happened to be in the “Right place at the Right Time” and feel very privileged to capture one of Nature’s dramas.
(Hint- turn on HD if you want the highest quality image, be aware it takes longer to load.)