Careless Colorado tourist caught sneaking up on sleeping bull elk, with small child in tow

Sleeping elk, Colorado
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A woman has been spotted endangering her young child at Estes Park, Colorado, by leading the youngster right up to a napping bull elk. The tourist is so preoccupied with trying to photograph the snoozing animal, she seems unaware of the risk to her youngster, who crouches on the ground about two feet from the powerful animal.

Estes Park is a picturesque town that often serves as a base for people visiting nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, and is well known for its population of elk. Around 2,400 of the animals were estimated to be living in the Estes valley in 2020, and they are a common sight year round.

The animals roam freely, occasionally straying into local businesses like hunting stores and gift shops. Residents know to give them plenty of space and call for expert help to guide them out of harm's way, but visitors aren't always as cautious.

A video of the careless photographer and her daughter (which you can see below) was shared this week via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, which calls out bad behavior at sites of natural beauty around the world, often including wildlife.

Viewers were alarmed, roundly criticizing the parent's lack of consideration for the threat such a powerful animal could pose to a small child.

"How incredibly unsafe," wrote one commenter. "The first thing I see is a sleeping animal [startled] awake and running straight for these two with its rack in defense mode. I wouldn't even let my dog near a sleeping giant much less a child."

"I’m a former zookeeper and current wildlife rehabber," said another. "That child would be gored if she ran playfully at them."

Elk safety

Officials at Estes Park warn visitors to give elk plenty of space, and take care not to disturb them, particularly during calving season in the spring and rutting season in the fall.

"Every day our dispatch center receives numerous calls for police officers to respond to elk issues around town, and the vast majority of issues are caused by people," says Estes Park Police Chief Wes Kufeld.

Most problems are caused by people getting too close to the animals, or by visitors stopping their cars in the road to take pictures, causing traffic jams.

"Safety should be first on the minds of elk-viewers, so they can have a great experience," says Kufeld.

For more advice, take a look at our guides how to enjoy elk rutting season safely and wildlife safety: eight tips for surprise 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.