Sex and Violence, Elk-style

With a goal to get some exercise in during a gluttonous trip to San Francisco, friends took us for a hike in the striking Point Reyes National Seashore Park, only an hour northwest of the city. After eyeing us, the jovial ranger suggested we take the Tomales Point hike. “It is about 5 miles each way, sandy but moderate, and there is a good chance to see some sex and violence along the way,” he said. We were sold. Yes, cheaply.

Hiking is not for everyone. However, throw in the possibility of viewing live sexual acts, and urban dwellers pour into the woods by the Jeep-loads. OK, when you get there, you realize the only participants are elk. But still, if you are into viewing fellow mammals procreate, hiking Point Reyes might be for you.

Although we did not plan our trip with elk (or sex) in mind, last weekend we found ourselves in the middle of the elk mating season, which usually runs from the end of July through October. Literally hundreds of elk surrounded us along the sandy path with magnificent views of the ocean. The mating process itself is every feminist’s worst nightmare. During the mating season, elk bulls gather females into harems. Each harem has about 20 or so females, or as many as a bull can defend from competing males.

Still, scientific curiosity aside, it was slightly disturbing to see all the tourists, photographers, and experts set up their tripods and telescopes to see exactly what is going on, hoping to document the act first-hand.

Without completely giving away the details, there is a lot of elk sniffing-around and bugling going on. While the males seemed very much into it, the females stayed blasé, if not bored. An on-looking photographer summarized the scene: “This is like the worst pick-up bar ever!”