DENVER (KDVR) — Mating season will start soon in Colorado for elk. In case you did not know, the mating season is also called rut.

The National Park Service says the elk rut starts in mid-September and lasts to mid-October.

So, what exactly should you look out for during rut in our state?

Colorado Parks and Wildlife said elk are more active, potentially more aggressive near trails, and less aware when along roadways.

Difference between bull elk and cow elk

During the rut, bull elk bugle and large groups of cows can be easy to spot. 

“Some bugles simply communicate that the bull is in the area with his harem. Others communicate to the cows that they are straying too far from the bull or otherwise displeasing him. Still others communicate to other bulls that they are too close to his harem, and that he is willing and able to defend his cows. In contrast, both types of aggressive calls have lower pitched components in some parts of the call. Elk calls with grunts seem to occur less frequently (about 16% of the time) than calls without grunts. So far researchers have not determined what function the grunts play,” Dr. Jennifer Clarke of University of Northern Colorado said.

Here is what a bugling bull elk looks like and what a cow elk looks like. A bull elk has antlers during the rut and a cow elk does not.

A bull is a male elk, and a cow is a female elk.

Wildlife officials are also reminding hikers to keep dogs on a leash, and to give wildlife plenty of space.

Are you too close to the elk?

Getting too close to wildlife can be very dangerous, especially during the rut. The rule of thumb is to hold your thumb up over the animal at a distance. If your thumb covers the animal’s body entirely, you are likely a safe distance away.

It is also important to remember to never feed wild animals. Do not risk your safety to take a photo of an animal.

Clean up your property to protect elk

Over the years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has shared stories of elk getting entangled in many different things:

  • Tricycles
  • Tires
  • Garden cages
  • Clothes lines
  • Plastic fencing
  • Lawn chairs
  • Playground equipment
  • Soccer nets
  • Christmas lights

It’s important to keep your property cleaned up to protect the elk. Here are some tips from CPW:

  • Place lights and other decorations above six feet or attached tightly to trees and buildings
  • Lights that hang low or that are draped insecurely over vegetation can get tangled easily in antlers
  • Report any wildlife entanglement immediately and don’t try to intervene by yourself

Residents on the Front Range can call CPW’s Denver office at 303-291-7227 to report entangled wildlife, or if elsewhere in the state they can look up their local CPW office. If it is after hours when offices are closed, residents are asked to call Colorado State Patrol at 303-239-4501 and ask for the on-call wildlife officer.