Wildlife Paparazzo – Bone eater in the Rockies

When we spend time in the outdoors with our cameras in tow, it’s only a matter of time before we come across a rare or unusual moment in nature. In fact, one of the joys of wildlife photography is when the unexpected happens. Perhaps it’s a particular creature we rarely observe in the wild like a badger hunting ground squirrels in the snow or maybe a burrowing owl chasing away a coyote from its nesting area. Whatever it may be, when we do see these incredible moments in nature they become fond memories that are shared among friends through stories and images.
This month, I’d like to share one of these incredible moments with you from my travels in the Alberta Rockies. I was in the area one year in July, wrapping up a personal project on Rocky Mountain elk and travelling back towards Mount Robson and the B.C. border. While looking for early morning wildlife, something caught my eye and I made the decision to pull over and do a little investigating.
Adorned in full beige velvet, rising up over a waist high carpet of grass, was a strikingly impressive set of elk antlers. Several metres from the highway, I located a short game trail that led to the edge of a field to photograph the elk safely. I was unaware that I’d soon be witnessing and photographing one of the more rarely seen forms of elk behaviour in the Canadian Rockies. I looked through my viewfinder and zoomed in for a closer look.
The golden brown bull elk was bedded down and it was initially difficult to get a good look at what he was doing. His head was down and, judging by the movement of his antlers, he appeared to be scratching or rubbing up against something in the grass. Suddenly, the elk raised his head and to my surprise, an animal bone was hanging out of the right side of his mouth.
The bone was large, and looked like it was the remains of a moose, deer or even elk. Needless to say, this was an astonishing encounter. I’d read about this behaviour in the past, but never expected to witness it in person.
Through further research I found out that every now and then, elk chew on and swallow bones or pieces of antler. Some experts say they’re after the massive dose of calcium and protein that these remains supply. Whatever the reason, this photo captured something special that few people ever see.
The few moments I spent with this bone eater were definitely moments that won’t soon be forgotten. And, although dew soaked from belt to boot, it was great to capture this rare moment in nature.
As a passionate wildlife photographer, it’s moments like this that bring me back time and time again to our wild and natural spaces.

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