A volunteer ranger captured an impressive sparring match between a pair of bull elk at Great Smoky Mountains last week, and shared it online for wildlife lovers who can't witness the rut in person.
The video, which you can watch below, was recorded on September 16 at Maggie Valley, a town right by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is often used a base by hikers who want to stay somewhere peaceful off-site overnight.
The two bulls are fighting for the attention of a cow, who can be seen in the background at the start of the clip. Shortly after, the slightly smaller male turns, head lowered, instigating the sparring match. Eventually he's forced back, overpowered, and chased away.
"Every wildlife photographer would hope to shoot the elk one day during the rut," the ranger wrote in the video description. "Usually all you get is them sparring. This is the real deal and was happy that the one that didn't win, got to live and run away. Very cool."
As the National Park Service explains, elk in the Rocky Mountains descend from the high ground where they spend most of the year into the meadows for their breeding season (the rut). They compete with one another by posturing, bugling, and sparring, but rarely actually fight with the intention of harming one another, as this causes injuries (typically puncture wounds) and depletes energy.
If you're lucky enough to be visiting elk country soon, take a look at our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely to find out how to get the most from the experience.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).