“This is an unusual and unfortunate situation" – wildlife officials investigate unprovoked attack on child by cow elk

Cow elk at Yellowstone National Park
It's normal for cow elk to be protective of their young, but highly unusual for them to charge from a distance without provocation (Image credit: Getty)

Colorado wildlife officials are investigating after a cow elk attacked an 8-year-old girl on Thursday just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

According to a news release by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the incident took place at around 1 p.m. when the girl was riding her bike around an Estes Park neighborhood. Family members say the elk started charging the girl from approximately 60 yards away before catching up to her and stomping on her multiple times. 

The child was taken to hospital for treatment for her injuries and released later the same day.

“This is an unusual and unfortunate situation where a young girl was playing outside, far from the calf, and a cow elk became aggressive to protect her newborn,” comments Jason Duetsch, Area Wildlife Manager for CPW. 

Though it is not uncommon for elk to become defensive during calving season or when they feel threatened – on Friday, we reported on an elk charging a man in Evergreen, CO who got too close with his dog – an unprovoked incident at such a distance is highly unusual.

When a wildlife officer responded to the attack, the elk again became aggressive prompting the officer to haze the elk with a non-lethal bean bag round. The following day, officers returned to the scene to transport the calf to the CPW Health Lab where  it will be cared for by veterinarians and wildlife specialists. The CPW reports that it will continue to "haze cow elk in the area as necessary" to discourage interactions with residents. 

Signs warning of aggressive elk have been placed in the area and wildlife officials remind all residents and visitors that pets should be on-leash at all times. Elk are at their most aggressive during calving and rutting season. The National Parks Service advises staying at least 25 yards away from elk at all times. It's wisest to appreciate them from the safety of your car, or use a pair of binoculars or a long lens. 

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.