Elk are very protective parents, as one senior tourist found out when trying to take close-up photos of a female and her calf in Colorado. The cow took exception to the man approaching her young at the side of a road and sent him sprinting downhill to avoid being trampled.
"The older gentleman walked up a hillside to photograph her and her calf with his cell phone," Kristy explained. "She chased him down the hill and across the road. He didn’t even drop his soda."
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Cow elk may seem harmless, being smaller than bulls and lacking magnificent antlers, but they can still be very dangerous. In 2018, an employee at Yellowstone National Park was trampled by an elk that was protecting a calf bedded down behind the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
Cows will often leave their young hidden in long grass or bushes while they forage, which can lead hikers to mistakenly think that calves have been abandoned, but they mother is rarely far away – and can be very aggressive.
Earlier this year, the National Park Service (NPS) 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.
"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."
For more advice, take a look at our guide wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.
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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.