Although he was known to filmmakers and audiences simply as No. 10, this old bull elk was recognized by many as an international symbol for Yellowstone National Park. According to The Billings Gazette, his tenure as a celebrity monarch came to a close when wardens found that the elk had been brought down by a pack of wolves.
First “discovered” by the British Brodcasting Corporation (BBC) during a documentary on animals living in the area, No. 10 rose to prominence as a powerful bull. Following his rise was another rival male, No. 6. In their youth the two bulls fought often for harems of females and mating privileges. Their lives were caught on video for documentaries such as Showdown in Elk Town where the two bulls would often bring their grudge matches into nearby urban areas. Eventually though, old age caught up with No. 10, who was estimated to be 18 years old at the time of his death.
“I remember in 2006 when Elk 10 arrived on the Mammoth scene on Sept. 10,” wrote naturalist Jim Halfpenny. “He was big and took the harem over from another bull. In the coming years, he and Elk 6 did battle on more than one occasion. In more recent years he did not come into Mammoth, but maintained a harem of his own between the YCC camp and Mammoth Terraces. Being slightly old, wiser, and lacking the body weight of his youth, it was now time to retreat to a more private place with a smaller harem. He let the younger bulls compete for the prime grazing habitat of Mammoth and the cows that are attracted there.”
His rival No. 6 died in 2009 when the bull tried to jump a barbed-wire fence and failed. The animal was caught on the barbs and died a slow, inglorious death. Elk live an average of 10 to 13 years in the wild, with males having a drastically shorter lifespan. Very few make it into their 20s. With the demise of his rival, No. 10 seemingly withdrew from social life and the highly contested ground of Mammoth.
Sadly, his story came to an end last Saturday, half a mile east of Wraith Falls. It is believed that the large bull was killed by the Canyon wolf pack, which were last seen feasting on his carcass. Those who had gotten to know him fondly recall times when No. 10 harried tourists and small automobiles in the town of Estes, Colorado every summer during his prime.
You can see some of No. 10’s antics below. He is the one with the characteristic No. 10 yellow tag.