Angry bull elk throws careless tourist to the ground at Yellowstone

Bull elk bugling
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A man was thrown to the ground by a bull elk at Yellowstone National Park after getting too close during the rutting season. The large bull was about to square off with a rival male when he was distracted by a large group of people who had gathered to watch much too close.

The bull abandoned his opponent and trotted towards the group, who refused to move. Eventually he charged, knocking one visitor down with his antlers. The attack recorded by another park visitor, Boyce Schall, who was trying to film the two bulls squaring off from further back using his phone's zoom.

The incident tool place in 2018, but Schall's video began recirculating on social media  this week after being reposted on Instagram by TouronsOfYellowstone. The account calls out bad behavior at US National Parks, and more recent videos have included a man ripping off his shirt and chasing bears, and a woman burning herself by dipping her hand in a thermal pool.

According to NBC Montana, the man didn't appear to suffer any serious injuries, and walked away with only a few cuts and bruises.

Although attacks are rare, elk are large, powerful animals capable of inflicting serious damage when provoked. In October 2020, a man suffered a lacerated kidney after being charged by an elk on a Colorado golf course. 

"This bull elk was just eyeing us down," victim Zak Bornhoft told CNN in a phone interview from his hospital bed. "We were slowly going forward and he started charging at us and he missed. My buddy gassed it to get away and the elk gored me on my right side."

The animal's antler pierced deep into Bornhoft's hip and sliced his kidney in two, but he was able to receive prompt medical treatment and pulled through.

Elk safety

Elk may seem docile at first, but like all wild animals they can be unpredictable. Females (cows) are particularly dangerous during the spring while protecting their calves, while males (bulls) are most aggressive in the fall while competing for the right to mate.

Different National Parks have their own rules on how much space you should give wildlife, depending on the landscape and the animals' general behavior. The NPS warn those visiting Yellowstone not to approach within 25 yards (23 meters) of elk, and to watch out for signs of distress like pawing the ground or flattening the ears, which indicate the animal may be about to charge.

"In an elk charges, get away!" says the NPS. "Retreat to shelter in a building or vehicle or behind a tall, sturdy barrier as quickly as possible."

For more advice, take a look at our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely.

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.