Wapiti - The Ghost King

November 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Wapiti - The Ghost King

This image was inspired by Native American beliefs surrounding wapiti, or elk.  Elk are one of the largest land mammals in North America, and Colorado has the largest elk population in the world at an estimated 280,000.

Before European settlement in North America, some 10 million elk roamed freely across the United States and into Canada. As settlement pushed westward, the elk were eventually forced to the Rocky Mountain states and to the Pacific Northwest. Over hunting reduced their total to around 50,000.Today, thanks to the conservatorship of Teddy Roosevelt and the establishment of National Parks, the count is nearer to 1 million.

Wapiti, which means “white rump”, are known to Native Americans as “the ghost kings”. They are cautious and wary, with a keen ability to sense and evade humans. Elk were a crucial part of the Indian’s daily lives, providing food, jewelry from their antlers, and clothing and shelter fashioned from their hides.

Pictograms and petroglyphs, can be found on cliffs and in caves throughout the southwestern states that date back thousands of years.  One especially impressive petroglyph is a 2 foot wide depiction of an elk in Red Tank Draw, Verde Valley, Arizona.

The above is a composite image, with the 6 point bull superimposed on the bark of an ancient bristlecone pine, itself over 1,000 years old. The elk was photographed in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the bristlecone was photographed on Windy Ridge, near Alma Colorado.


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