“Uh, hey Howard, if you’re not doing anything too important this morning, you might want to check this out.” Grateful as always for the call, I had learned that whenever my friend Neal Maine offered a suggestion, however understated it might sound, there was definitely something worth checking out. Without hesitation I dropped everything “important” that I might have been doing, threw my gear in the car, and headed straight out.
Fifteen minutes later, there indeed they were: 50-plus head of elk casually cruising the surf line on the south side of the Necanicum estuary, looking for all the world like they were on vacation. Comprised of cows, calves and immature bulls (mating-age bulls tend to keep apart until rutting season arrives in the fall), this was one of several herds that regularly traverse the North Coast. Headed north, this group paused where the river meets the sea, giving me time to hope I might finally see a sight I’d always yearned to see.
And then, as my disbelieving eyes watched wide in wonder, into the water the herd plunged.
I’ll post a longer video soon of the whole episode, but this is the nucleus of it that inspired hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, in turn prompting OPB to dispatch a film crew to the coast to film me filming elk, where it felt really funny to find myself on the wrong side of a camera. And judging by the reactions to the OPB show by thousands more Oregon TV viewers, I was not the only one surprised to see elk cavorting in the water like this.
The elk were at least half a mile distant when I first saw them, but they had moved increasingly closer to my location as they zigged and zagged back and forth through the estuary. When the whole herd suddenly whirled and began running through the water straight at me, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. With my eyeball embedded in the camera viewfinder, the elk looked twice as big and close as they actually were.
Finally parading past me just yards away, they surprised me again by emerging from the water in a residential area — where they promptly disappeared. I have often marveled at the amazing ability of such large animals to simply go poof! and be gone — but a whole herd? Be sure to check back and watch the longer video when it’s posted, and see for yourself.