The King is Dead…

I had another astronomy post ready to go today, but I’m going to push that back until the weekend. Instead, I have an addendum to my first elk post from a couple of weeks ago, a post-mortem if you will.

Do you remember the herd bull, the very aggressive one that I suggested was simply ornerier, nastier than the other bulls and perhaps a little crazy in his hormone-soaked rage? This guy:

Well, four days after I photographed him, he was dead, defeated and killed by another bull in a dominance battle. There were witnesses to the fight and the way I heard the story, the other bull inflicted a head wound on “our” bull, stunning him or knocking him unconscious. Either way, once he was on the ground, the other bull stomped his head. That’s right, stomped.

Photo courtesy of Dave Hasenbeck, Missouri Department of Conservation

I was surprised when I heard that, but I’d never really thought about it. I don’t recall hearing of an elk stomping another, but when you weigh 800-plus pounds and have hooves, you can do some serious damage by stomping. It makes more sense when you look at it in that light.

Photo courtesy of Dave Hasenbeck, Missouri Department of Conservation

According to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, fights to the death between elk happen “occasionally.” They follow that up with this:

Fighting is a show of strength, not a battle to the death, but bulls do get hurt. If they stumble while their antlers are locked, one animal may be stabbed by the other’s antlers. Mature bulls often sustain injuries every year.

I was kinda sad when I learned of “our” bull’s death, but this is just more evidence that nature is unlike what many people believe. Nature is real, not Bambi or Disney World. There’s always someone bigger, stronger, meaner. Or just luckier. Some times they kick your tail, some times they make you dead. For me, that only makes the natural world more interesting, a drama of the constant struggle for life and death. The real world.

I find it very ironic that I quoted Alfred Lord Tennyson in the earlier post because now I get to use another of his quotes, one from which most people will recognize at least one certain line:

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed

Long live the king!

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