On our last day at Yellowstone, we were blessed with the experience of watching two elk cows search for their little ones in the sagebrush. I always thought that baby deer and elk stayed put, and that the mamas knew where they left them. I will have to do more research on deer, but these elk cows obviously had only approximate relevance to where they left their little ones to hide for the day!
The mamas found the first young one near where they were searching. I wasn’t sure which mom the baby belonged to, because they both appeared happy to see it, but neither seemed to claim it.
As the reunion proceeded, we heard another little one cry out several times. We were sitting beyond the Yellowstone River, and the second baby was on our side of the river. Without hardly flinching, the baby hopped into the water and swam across the river, as we all held our breath for it!
It was a beautiful reunion even though the elk cow could not identify the calf by scent as he was so wet. They seemed to still be concerned, and still searching. Lo and behold, one more popped out of the sagebrush and ran to greet the mamas!
By the time they had moved up toward the forest on the mountain, a third elk cow had joined them, and we could still hear another baby elk bleating in the distance, seemingly getting impatient for mom to come pick it up along the way! We’re still not sure who was whose, but in the end the cows did seem to figure it out. It was a 45 minute experience my family will never forget!