A tourist visiting Yellowstone National Park recently got a fright after straying much too close to one of the park's many elk. The a bull elk's haunting cry (known as bugling) is used to help attract a mate during the rut in fall, but can be a sign of aggression year-round, and this individual got to hear it from just inches away.
The incident, which you can watch and hear below, was captured by another park visitor and shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which highlights examples of bad behavior at US National Parks and other sites of natural beauty.
A photo posted by on
Between 10,000 and 20,000 elk are estimated to occupy Yellowstone during the summer months. Most spend the winter at lower levels just outside the park, but some remain within the boundaries throughout the colder months. They are naturally docile and prefer to avoid contact with people, but like all wild animals they are unpredictable and can become aggressive if they, their young, or their food source is threatened.
Bulls weigh around 700lb and are typically about 5' tall at the shoulder, and are capable of inflicting serious injury, even after they have shed their antlers in early spring.
The National Park Service (NPS) asks people visiting Yellowstone to never approach wild animals, no matter how calm they appear to be. Signs that an elk is feeling nervous or aggressive include making vocalizations, grinding its teeth, laying back its ears, lowering its head, and pawing the ground.
The NPS advises watching from a car if possible, and staying at least 25 yards from elk at all times. If you're not sure how close that is, close one eye, hold out your arm, and give the animal a thumbs up. If you can completely obscure the animal with your thumb, then you're at a safe distance.
It's also important to never feed wildlife. Doing so can cause animals to lose their natural wariness of humans, making dangerous close encounters more likely. It can also cause animals to seek out human food rather than sticking to their natural diet, which can cause digestive issues and nutrient shortages.
For more advice on how to enjoy watching elk responsibly during the fall and all year round, see our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely.
- The best binoculars and monoculars: enjoy wildlife-watching from a safe distance
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.