A group of tourists got a shock at Rocky Mountain National Park recently after discovering just how agile bull elk can be. In a video, which you can watch below, at least 12 people, including adults and children, can be seen gathered on one side of a two-bar fence watching the majestic elk and snapping photos at close range. The elk tries to warn them back by bugling, and sends them running when it easily jumps the barrier between them.
Elk are generally docile animals, and would rather leave an area than engage with humans, but attacks do sometimes happen when people get too close. Cow elk can be particularly dangerous in the spring when they are protecting their calves, while bulls are more aggressive during the mating season (known as the rut), which takes place in the fall.
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The National Park Service (NPS) advises Rocky Mountain visitors to stay at least 75ft (23 meters) from elk and bighorn sheep at all times.
"It can be hard to believe that a safe distance is as much about the animal’s welfare as it is about yours, but it’s true," explains the NPS. "Getting too close, feeding, and touching are all things that can put you and your furry, feathered, or scaled counterpart in grave danger. While Rocky Mountain National Park is a conscientious partner for visitors, it also remains continuously committed to the protection and preservation of nature and wildlife."
Visitors are reminded that traveling in groups can help keep them safe, but doesn't mean that they can get closer to wildlife than if they are alone. If crowds gather, animals can feel threatened, panic, and lash out.
"This is especially the case as people start to surround the animal(s), even if they are at the proper distance, because the wildlife may feel trapped," the NPS says. "If people around you stop maintaining the safe distance, don’t be afraid to speak up and remind your fellow visitors of the safe distance rules. Sometimes, in the moment, anyone could use a gentle reminder that long-distance relationships with wildlife are better for everyone."
If you're planning to visit a National Park in the coming weeks, take a look at our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely to learn how to enjoy these beautiful animals without disturbing them.
- The best binoculars: enjoy watching wildlife from a safe distance
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 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).