Thursday, August 25, 2011

In Search Of The Elusive Melk – Beginnings

The rumors have been around for weeks, if not centuries. People have trekked to Yellowstone from all corners of the planet, wondering…seeking…searching for answers. Inquiries have been made at multiple visitor center information desks. Park rangers have been accosted on trails by those in need of clarification. Sadly, enlightenment has yet to be attained.
What is this eternal question that has been posed by many, the answer to which seems to be just beyond the grasp of all? 

“At what elevation do elk turn into moose?” 

IMG_8508ElkCalf ThroughScreen Door
Elk calf through a screen door dimly - future moose? 
No one has actually ever seen a melk, nor does anyone really know at what optimal elevation this metamorphism actually occurs. Are there distinct “stages” through which elk must pass in order to obtain their mooseness?

ElkSkullWith Antlers
Elk antlers and skull - ghost of a melk?
The elevation range for melk is thought to be around 8000 feet above sea level, give or take a few inches. Alas, the Central Plateau of Yellowstone fits nicely into that criterion. For sure, there have been those who claim to have stumbled across a melk, perhaps in some remote thermal swampland or sluggish river drainage of backwater northern Wyoming and southern Montana (not sure what’s going on in Idaho, however). Grainy Kodak Instamatic photographs allegedly of melk have been furtively passed around in dingy mountain cabins and by the fading light of dying embers of midnight campfires. But these claims remain unverified; no legitimate photo has yet been published. 

And so I made the decision last week to launch my own late–summer quest, a quest that would take me into the back of beyond. I would, in the end, have nervously tiptoed through seething bubbling hot springs; noisily slogged hip–deep in festering leech–ridden wetlands; and treaded uneasily through the darkest grizzly–infested forests. Anyone who wanted to join me was welcome, and there were legions of those who were eager. OK,  there were only three, and they had no idea they were searching for anything until I clued them in. One sojourner insisted that we would also have to look for yeti while we were out there slogging and treading and tiptoeing, so we added those to our agenda. 

Ultimately, we all agreed our undertaking was becoming curiouser and curiouser. 

IMG_8512ElkCalf OnItsWay
Going somewhere?


  1. I believe those melk reside in Washington's Gifford Pinchot forest also, although I've never seen them. But sure was asked about then frequently. Looks like a glorious adventure. Good luck with this.


    I recently read one of the journals of the infamous Western scout,
    Jedediah Talltale. In it he described
    the then plentiful Wyoming melk and his description matches your third photo to a T.

    What you have in your possession is a somewhat clear photo of the once thought extinct MIGRATING JUVENILE SPOTTED IDAHO MELK.....

  3. Oh wow! Good detective work, TRAVEL AGENT. I had to slog through miles of Wyoming swamp to catch a glimpse of this rare creature.

    Actually, it was right outside my kitchen window. I am so lucky!

  4. I think you've been out there too long....

  5. Or UP here too long! Being at this elevation CAN have a strange effect on your thinking...

  6. I actually did see something that could have been a melk. Sikanni River, BC. 2009?