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Red Sky at Morning

yourframe olympic peninsula roosevelt elk photo by rick browne
Elk at Olympic National Park, by Rick Browne

Capturing a chance encounter on the Olympic Peninsula

AAA Washington member Rick Browne only had one chance to preserve this special moment while on an early morning drive in Washington state’s Olympic National Park.

“I was on my way to take a ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, but dawdled away a few days in the park on the way up,” the Vashon resident said. “As an early riser, I lucked onto this elk and could only grab one frame before he vanished into the woods.”

It was September, so Browne figures this bull was either looking for breakfast or love. Elk can be heard bugling in the fall mating season, and sparring bulls have closed Hoh Campground to overnight visitors for weeks during the rut. The Hoh Rain Forest is home to several herds, although Roosevelt elk can be found across the park, in Olympic Peninsula communities such as Sequim and the Skokomish Valley, and as far as British Columbia and California.

These elk are the largest in North America, and Olympic National Park — once proposed as “Elk National Park” — is home to the largest unmanaged Roosevelt elk herd in the Northwest. Roosevelt elk are named for President Theodore Roosevelt, who designated Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909 to protect their dwindling numbers. President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 signed the act establishing Olympic National Park.

Park officials urge visitors to stay at least 50 yards from wildlife and to remain in their cars if elk are near parking areas, because these wild animals are dangerous and unpredictable. Keep watch for elk on the road while driving in or near the park, leave yourself plenty of time to brake when rounding curves and cresting hills in elk country, and remember to pull safely out of traffic and put the car in park if you want to observe or photograph these massive mammals.

– This story originally appeared in the March/April 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

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