The elk is a majestic forest ghost. They are always there, but rarely seen. I can wake up in the morning and see fresh droppings 10 feet away from my door. There are always fresh prints in the mud and sand. They have carved trails through our woods, and have utilized, and I imagine probably greatly appreciated the trails that we have carved as well.
A few summers ago while hiking with a friend in the Olympic National Park’s Hoh rainforest, I received a sign that the elk was my spirit animal. Ever since then I have held onto the wisdom of the elk medicine, and wear an elk tooth around my neck. Actually, I suppose I used to wear it….in the city. These days, practicality is winning and the only thing I put around my neck in the woods is a whistle.
So when we came to Robinwood, and I recognized that it was thoroughly inhabited by elk, I knew it was my home. When I tell people about it, I get a lot of comments about hunting, and how people try their whole lives to win the elk ticket lottery. But Robinwood is a haven. It is a sanctuary for all the creatures of the forest, especially the elk. The Roosevelt elk, the biggest elk in the world, exist only in this part of the world. I’ve read that there are approximately 4500 of the species left today, and of these over 3000 live on Vancouver Island, mostly up here in the north island.
The Roosevelt elk are huge and the males can reach up to 500 kg ( just over 1000 lbs). Their antlers are massive. They live for about 12-15 years.
They travel in herds for the most part, although this summer I noticed a lone female residing in our forest which is rare. Neighbours said she may either be sick or pregnant, but the the best of my observation, she appeared to be neither. (But I’m rookie.)
On rainy days I see the herds come out to the meadow to graze when I’m tucked away in the bus. I’ve seen them hanging out with the horses, and any tiny noise or movement I seem to make is always noticed.
Of course, each time I travel into the woods is like a treasure hunt for bones. I found an entire well preserved skeleton of a female elk, and several bones here and there on my walks in the woods. Each one is remnant of the story of life and struggle, beauty and pain, and the connectedness of all things enveloped by moss.