Elk NetworkWhat makes a rogue bull?

Conservation | March 7, 2018

Bull #6 in Yellowstone had a bad attitude. His love for bashing cars and people around the park became legendary. While most bulls get a serious boost of testosterone during the rut, some get a mega-dose. Bull #6 was literally on the “juice.” Just as there is always that one guy in a group who likes to fight at the drop of a hat, elk have individual personalities, too. Studies in sika deer, which inhabit much of East Asia, have shown the number of points correspond directly to fight success. The more fights won, the more points gained. While it’s pure speculation, one might apply this to Bull #6.  He rarely lost a fight, thus at one time he sported symmetrical 7×7 headgear. The bigger he got, the more confidence he gained and the more he liked to fight.

The opposite of #6 is what biologist Val Geist calls the “shirker” bull. Through field observations, Geist concluded that because of a bad experience with an older bull, cowardice, or for reasons of their own, some bulls choose not to participate in fall battles. They save their precious fat stores for the battle with winter instead. No injuries and better nutrition mean that year after year they grow some of the mightiest racks.