The big boys were out to play earlier this month in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. On September 17, Derek Yoder and his wife Courtney Brooke, a professional wildlife photographer, stumbled upon an epic scene. Two large bull moose were battling, and the sound of their skirmish drew another big critter out of the woods—a mature bull elk, which watched the moose throw down with considerable interest. Yoder and Brooke recorded a video of the incident that they posted on Instagram. “When the moose start sparing, the whole forest stops to watch the match,” wrote Yoder in the caption.
“It was very exciting capturing this elk spectating the bout,” Yoder tells F&S. “I thought, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting this,’ and we both felt very lucky to be there at that time.”
Grand Teton National Park is home to a high concentration of moose, mostly in the marshy areas of meadows, lake shores, and along rivers in the park. According to the National Park Service, bull moose in the area can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. During the fall rut, bull moose are known to bellow to challenge each other and fight by clashing their paddles. Large numbers of elk migrate between Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge, which is to the southeast of the park. Bull elk also battle for dominance in the fall.
“I’m not really sure you could call a winner [of the battle]. There was a cow nearby but it was very early in the rut and more of a sparing than a fight,” says Yoder. “While this was happening, there was a cinnamon black bear eating berries about 50 yards behind us, so we turned to capture that once the bulls ran into the trees.”