Smart elk herds careless tourist into his own personal pen at Yellowstone

Bull elk at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
(Image credit: Getty)

A tourist had a shock at Yellowstone National Park recently after getting too close to one of the native elk. A guide from raft trip organizer Rimrock Adventures recorded the moment the animal charged the man and his partner, who had seemingly left their car to get a better look.

In the resulting video, which you can watch below, the woman sprints back to the parking lot while the man ducks through a fence to avoid being knocked down. More tourists can be seen fleeing in the background while the elk runs around the man who is now effectively trapped in a small pen.

The clip was shared this week via Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which calls out bad behavior at US National Parks. Other recent incidents have involved people trying to pet bison, making gorilla noises at bears, and touching hot springs.

This time nobody was hurt, but elk are strong, fast animals that can inflict serious injuries. Such incidents are rare, but in 2012, a 60-year-old woman was hospitalized after being trampled by an elk at Estes Park, Colorado. A friend told CBS News that she had accidentally wandered between a cow and her calf.

Two more people were injured at Estes Park in 2019 when they were charged by a bull elk. As NBC News reported, a woman was thrown to the ground, and a man slipped and hit his head on a rock while trying to flee.

Stay safe around elk

Elk are usually docile and prefer to avoid close encounters with people, but like all wild animals they are unpredictable and their mood can change at the drop of a hat.

The National Park Service (NPS) warns Yellowstone visitors not to approach animals, no matter how calm they may seem at the time. The safest place to view wildlife is from inside your car, and when hiking you should always stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) from bison and elk.

"Cow elk are especially fierce and protective around their calves in the spring," says the NPS. "Around Mammoth Hot Springs, they often hide calves near cars or buildings. Be cautious when exiting buildings or approaching blind corners. In the fall, bull elk battle for access to cows and challenge other males during the rut. They also charge cars and people who get too close."

If you're planning on visiting a US National Park later this year, take a look at our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely.

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.