It's elk mating season and tempers are short, which makes it even more important than usual to give the animals plenty of space. Unfortunately not everyone takes such recommendations seriously, and one man visiting Banff National Park was caught on camera earlier this week giving a perfect demonstration of what not to do. In a video shared online, the man can be seen chasing after a bull elk, phone in hand, and seemingly snapping pictures of its rear before running off again.
Elk naturally prefer to avoid confrontations with people, but can lash out if they feel threatened, so approaching closely from behind is a particularly bad move. Attacks on people do occasionally happen, particularly during the rut. In October 2020, a man suffered a lacerated kidney after being attacked by a bull at a Colorado golf course.
This week's incident (which you can watch below) was shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which calls out bad behavior at National Parks. Other recently posted videos have included a shirtless man chasing bears, a person strolling barefoot on Grand Prismatic, and a group of friends holding a ukulele singalong on the rim of the Grand Canyon.
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Seeing bull elk bugling and clashing antlers as they compete for dominance is an unforgettable experience, but one that's best enjoyed from a safe distance. Parks Canada warns visitors that the animals can be aggressive, and may attack without warning.
"Just because you see them in town, on playing fields or feeding near the roadside, please don't mistake these elk for tame animals," says the agency. "These wild animals do not have a tolerance of humans getting too close and will lash out with hooves or charge with antlers forward if disturbed."
Visitors are advised to stay at least 30 meters away from elk at Banff at all times, and use a telephoto lens or a pair of binoculars to get a better view. If an elk looks alert or nervous, grinds its teeth or sends its ears back, it's a sign that you're too close and need to back up.
Better wildlife photography
Wildlife photography is an art, and a little care and patience will yield much better photos than rushing after an animal in a parking lot. As professional wildlife photographer Emma Jacobs told us in a recent interview, taking time to learn about the animals you want to photograph beforehand, and then watching their behavior outdoors without disturbing them can make a world of difference.
"Move slowly and quietly, even after you've taken the photo so you don't disturb the animal," Jacobs said. "Keep in mind that you have no control over wildlife, but that's what makes your subject so interesting! If it flies or crawls away, look for another – you will be rewarded in the end! All you can do is put yourself in the right place and be patient."
Above all, it's essential to respect wild animals, and remember that you're a guest in their home.
"Only photograph natural behaviors and always avoid making animals do anything to cause them harm or distress," says Jacobs.
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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.