Angry Colorado elk "body slams" tourists' car to protect her calf

Cow elk grazing in field
(Image credit: Getty)

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has issued a warning to people visiting Estes Park after a cow elk was spotted ramming cars passing close to her calf. It's a timely reminder to give all animals a wide berth, particularly at this time of year when mothers are fiercely protective of their young.

"The cow elk have begun to raise their new calves of the year," CPW officers wrote in a post on Facebook, accompanied by a video of an animal charging at passing vehicles. 

"We have been receiving several reports of a particular cow in the area of Morgan St and University Dr charging at vehicles and people. Please avoid this area if possible and find a different route for at least the next few days. The cow has 'body slammed' at least one car causing damage to the vehicle."

Elk usually prefer to avoid close encounters with people, but can be unpredictable and aggressive if they or their young are threatened. There have been several incidents at National Parks this summer where visitors have found themselves running from cow elk after trying to take photos of their calves.

The National Park Service (NPS) has urged hikers to keep their distance and never touch young animals after a string of incidents, including one where well-meaning tourists picked up an elk calf and drove it to a Yellowstone police station. Elk and deer often leave their young hidden for safety while they forage, which can lead people to assume they have been abandoned.

Another Yellowstone visitor was fined last month after handling a bison calf and pushing it up from a riverbank onto a road. Attempts to reunite the calf with its herd failed, and after it began approaching cars and people, Park Rangers took the difficult decision to euthanize the animal.

"Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in some cases, their survival," said the NPS in a statement. "When an animal is near a campsite, trail, boardwalk, parking lot, on a road, or in a developed area, leave it alone and give it space.

"Park regulations require that you stay at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all wildlife (including bison, elk and deer) and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves. Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury, and even death."

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.