This morning we had to be at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park by 8:00 AM for the Elk Bugeling Tour. This is a special tour for adults only. We arrived with plenty of time to spare even though we did get a little lost on the way.
Northwest Trek is a 723-acre park and has a little bit of everything: lakes, trails, meadows and plenty of animals. It is home to more than 200 North American animals. Dr. David and Connie Hellyer donated the land to create the park to display North American wildlife in their natural environments.
A normal tram tour at the Trek lasts about an hour and there are no stops to take photos. We signed up for the two hour elk bugeling tour which allows for photo stops in the tram as it occurs before the park opens. We were lucky to get pictures of other animals besides the elk while on the tour. We saw moose, mountain goats, bison and Roosevelt elk in the 435-acre free-roaming area.
We learned a lot about the turbulant elk "rut" or breeding season. The tram followed the elk herd through the free-roaming area and a naturalist explained the various behaviors of the animals. What I found most interesting is that even when the elks have fought it out and the best elk wins, the females really decide if he is the one. Last year they rejected the winner and chose another bull. The guides were happy about it because the one that won was very aggressive and even charged the trams. In other words, what the females want, the females get.
We wasted lots of digital camera space trying to get the perfect movie of an elk bugeling. It was just really hard to tell when they would decide to call but we finally managed to get a good one.
We watched a funny little bull elk who challenged all the big guys. A couple of them actually sparred with him. We decided they were just training him for when he did get a large rack. The naturalist told us that actually with his sharp pointy little rack, he could cause some major damage if the larger elks weren't careful. His rack could slip right between theirs. He was also the offspring of the bull elk the females rejected last year so he will probably end up to be a pistol.
After our tour we had a brunch in the Hellyer Natural History Center which used to be the summer home for the Hellylers. We were served pastries, donuts, fresh fruit, bagels with cream cheese and beverages. It was really good and it was nice to warm up in the house after roaming around in an open air tram for two hours! We also got to tour the home of the Hellyers. I imagine it was hard for them to give up as it is such a beautiful place and so serene and quiet. They enjoyed the free-roaming animals long before they opened the park.
After brunch, we walked the paved trails that led to exhibits where grizzlies, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, cougars and lynx reside. We also got to see golden and bald-headed eagles up close. They were wounded birds who could no longer fly. After walking the hilly paths up and down, we were ready to hop in the truck and head for home.