The Price of Living in Paradise

photo of a bull and harem

NPS Photo

It is 4:00 a.m. as I write this, and I've given up attempting to sleep for the rest of the night. Chalk another one up for the elk. The official count so far is: elk - 56; Renelle - 4.

I lived in Glacier National Park in Montana for 10 years before I moved to Rocky, and I've always appreciated the sounds of wildlife outside my window. All were welcome: the call of a mountain lion to her kitten, the soft hoot of an owl, even the banging of deer antlers against my house as the last pathetic flower in my yard got its head chomped off. I grew up on a farm in North Dakota, and the low mooing of cattle often mixed with the yipping of fox and coyotes to drift across the prairie at night. I've always balanced the loss of sleep against the realization and appreciation of how fortunate I was to live in areas where hoots and howls were the only breaks in the silence.

Then I moved in next to an elk herd. "The rut," the elk mating season, usually starts in late August or early September and lasts for 6-8 weeks. Sleep as I knew it is long gone, replaced by the continuous screeching of bull elk calling to cows. It's difficult to explain what these bulls sound like, except that it's nothing like the majestic bugling in movies – in my sleep-deprived state, they sound more like demented train whistles. I suspect there's not a cow elk within 40 miles that isn't experiencing hearing loss.

I know there are plenty of you who would gladly trade the blaring sounds of city nightlife for an elk serenade. But sleep is sleep, and even your favorite band playing outside your window might get a little tiring after 60 nights in a row. Someone suggested ear plugs, but the paranoid side of me whispers that I might sleep through some emergency I'd rather not miss.

So I guess I'll just shut off my computer, crack open the window, and listen to the elk symphony for the rest of the night. It's worth it for the privilege to live here. However, tomorrow I might start planning a long vacation for next fall . . . somewhere nice and quiet, like NY or Chicago.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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