Bull elk teaches Yellowstone tourists that telephoto camera lenses don't help at close range

Front-on view of bull elk
(Image credit: Getty)

A telephoto lens is an excellent tool for photographing animals without disturbing them, but only if you stay at a reasonable distance. Despite having the right equipment to take photos from afar, some visitors decided to approach a bull elk at Yellowstone National Park anyway – with predictable results.

A video of the incident, shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone at the weekend, shows four people approaching the animal, cameras and long lenses in hand, for reasons that defy explanation. Agitated, the elk makes a charge, but luckily for the photographers it takes aim at a car, giving them time to escape.

As hiking season approaches, It comes as a timely warning to give animals like elk plenty of space, particularly during the spring when females are protecting their young, and during the rut in the fall when males are competing for dominance and the right to mate.

The National Park Service (NPS) warns people visiting Yellowstone to always stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) from animals like elk and bison, and 100 yards (91 meters) from bears and wolves. Guidelines for other National Parks may vary depending on the wildlife and terrain, so make sure you check before traveling.

Deliberately approaching, distracting, or teasing wildlife at US National Parks is illegal, and those caught harassing wildlife can face a fine or even jail time.

Last year, a well-meaning visitor was fined after trying to help a bison calf at Yellowstone National Park by pushing it up from a riverbank when it became separated from its herd. Unfortunately the other animals rejected the calf, and Park Rangers eventually took the difficult decision to euthanize the animal after it began approaching people and cars.

"Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury and even death," explained the NPS in a statement at the time. "The safety of these animals, as well as human safety, depends on everyone using good judgment and following these simple rules."

Cat Ellis

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.