Colorado tourist learns the hard way that elk aren't your friends

Bull elk at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
(Image credit: Getty)

A woman visiting Estes Park in Colorado learned a lesson in wildlife safety recently after getting too close to one of the town's hundreds of elk. The tourist wandered right in front of a large bull, which gave a bluff charge to chase her out of its personal space.

Although elk are usually docile and would rather leave an area than confront a person, they are unpredictable wild animals, and can become aggressive if they or their young are threatened. 

The incident was captured on camera by another park visitor (who also appears to be standing much too close) and shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone. The account highlights examples of bad behavior at US National Parks and other sites of natural beauty, including people teasing elk, chasing bears, and trying to pet bison.

At the time of writing the account appears to be suspended, but the same clip was uploaded to YouTube as part of a compilation by Colorado Wildlife and Adventure Videos.

Estes Park is a picturesque town that's popular as a tourist destination in its own right, and as a base for people visiting nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. It's well known for its wildlife, including up to 3,200 elk during the summer and fall.

The animals can be found throughout the town, which even hosts a festival to celebrate them. This year's Elk Fest takes place from September 30 to October 1, and includes live music, food vendors, bugling contests, and even a 5k run.

However, the local tourism office stresses the importance of always giving the animals sufficient space. Visit Estes Park advises visitors to stay at least 75 feet (23 meters) from elk at all times, and the National Park Service (NPS) warns that approaching, feeding, and touching wild animals can put them at serious risk.

"Although they may appear harmless and even curious about you, wildlife do injure visitors every year," says the NPS. "That’s partly why approaching, harassing, or feeding any kind of wildlife, no matter how small or familiar, is illegal in all National Parks."

For more advice, see our guides how to enjoy elk rutting season safely and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.

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.