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Wild Thing

An owner with a soft spot for elk.
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twice an entrepreneur, Michael Ross has found a few hobbies to take his mind off the 60-hour workweeks: swimming, reading, and helping elk mate. The last of these may seem odd for a self-proclaimed city boy, but Ross is as passionate about his antlered friends as he is about his hat business. For two months each fall, Ross trots to Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, where he and 80 other volunteers stand guard while thousands of elk procreate. "The first night of elk duty was like, 'Wow," says Ross, 47, now in his fourth year with the Rocky Mountain Elk Bugle Corps.

After running a Miami hat company from 1981 to 1998, Ross and wife Elissa cashed out and moved to Boulder. They didn't stay retired long: In 2002 they founded Physician Endorsed, maker of chic, sun-protective chapeaus. After the move, Ross spotted an ad for the Bugle Corps and liked the idea of running interference for the elk. "The bulls are full of testosterone and only want to fight or mate," he says. The problem is people like to watch -- elk-mating is a tourist attraction. "You don't want a visitor taking a child up to a 1,250-pound elk for a photo," Ross says. The bulls arrange harems of as many as 50 cows, using a screeching bugle sound to make them swoon. "The meadow," says Ross, "is the elk pickup bar."




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