Careless tourists at Great Smoky Mountains get instant lesson in elk safety

Bull elk standing in shallow water
(Image credit: Getty)

A man visiting Great Smoky Mountains last week captured the moment when one of the National Park's rangers had to give a group of careless tourists an important lesson in elk safety.

Lucas Wiseman had only been at the park for about 15 minutes when he spotted a large group of other people gathered around a group of four elk grazing beside a parking lot. Some strolled dangerously close to the animals to get a better photo, but thankfully a nearby Park Ranger spotted the potentially dangerous situation and intervened.

Wiseman's video was shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which highlights examples of bad behavior at US National Parks, often involving wildlife. In the clip, the Ranger can be heard calling the tourists to step back and give the animals more space.

"You're way too close to the elk," he says. "You need to give them at least 50 yards. If you don't know what that looks like, hold your thumb up. Once you can cover the elk with your entire thumb, you're far enough away."

Some of the park visitors were giving the elk less than half the necessary space. Elk naturally avoid conflict with humans, but like all wild animals they can be unpredictable, particularly if they feel threatened. They have been known to charge and injure people by knocking them down and trampling them.

They can also cause collateral damage; last week a man was filmed taunting an elk from inside his car, and getting a punctured tire for his trouble.

Rather than getting too close, the National Park Service advises observing animals from a safe distance using binoculars or a long camera lens (see our guide to the best binoculars for some good options). For more tips on staying safe around elk all year round, see 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.