Curious elk spotted browsing tote bags in Estes Park after visiting jerky store

Close-up of cow elk shedding her winter coat
(Image credit: Getty)

A particularly curious cow elk wandered into a gift store in Estes Park, Colorado, this week, where she was spotted strolling between racks of ornaments and tote bags. Dierdre Kinley, owner of Favorite Things, had heard that the inquisitive animal was in the area, but hadn't expected to see her pottering among the trinkets and greetings cards.

"I didn’t realize she was still around," Kinley told local news site 9NEWS. "I was doing something on my iPad and looked up and there she was, in my store!"

Kinley called auxiliary police to help gently guide the elk out without startling her, and took a few photos for posterity.

"I keep my front door propped open to invite people in," Kinley said. "I’ve had a few chipmunks and a bird come in but never an elk!"

Officials believe this was the same animal that has visited other Estes Park businesses over recent weeks. A few days ago, she was spotted browsing a beef jerky store alongside surprised customers. Again, local police helped gently escort her off the premises.

"Tuesday afternoon we had a special visitor in our Estes Park Beef Jerky Experience store," said the shop owner in a Facebook post.

"She shopped around and patiently waited for her samples, because our motto is 'try before you buy'! Thank you to the Estes Park Police department for getting everyone out safely and quickly!"

The elk has also been seen strolling through a used book store, and loitering among pallets in the loading bay of a brewery.

Elk at Estes Park

Estes Park is a pretty town that often serves as a base camp for hikers visiting nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, but is also a tourist destination in its own right – largely due to its huge population of elk. Around 2,400 of the animals are estimated to live in Estes Valley.

Local businesses take encounters in their stride (and know when to call for help), but visitors are warned to be careful.

"Remember, even the animals you see in town and near people are wild and will defend themselves if they feel threatened," says official visitor information site Visit Estes Park.

"Being knowledgeable about the wildlife, their behaviors and habitats will help in knowing where to go, when to be on alert and when to adjust your behavior to ensure a peaceful, fun experience for all."

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.