"He got nailed" – huge bull elk knocks down phone-wielding Yellowstone tourist

Close-up of bull elk
(Image credit: Getty)

A man learned a painful lesson about wildlife safety after being knocked down by a bull elk that charged a group of people who had come too close to comfort. The incident was captured on camera by another park visitor, Boyce Schall, who recognized signs that the animal was agitated,

The incident took place during the elk mating season, known as the rut, which takes place in the fall, but began circulating again this week thanks to Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone. The account serves to highlight examples of careless behavior at US National Parks and other sites of natural beauty, including visitors chasing bears and trying to pet bison.

In the clip, which you can watch below, people have gathered to watch two males that appear ready to start sparring. However, one of the pair is distracted by the crowd and begins to approach. This, combined with his bugling call, is a sign that he's disturbed by their presence.

Elk usually prefer to avoid interacting with people, and will usually be first to leave, but like all wild animals they can be unpredictable. Males are particularly prone to aggression during the rut, while they compete with one another for dominance and the right to mate. 

During late spring and early summer, females will be very protective of their calves, and may attack people they perceive as a threat. They may hide their calves in unexpected places, so it's important to take particular care during May and June.

Elk safety

The National Park Service (NPS) explains that elk are the most numerous mammal at Yellowstone, with between 10,000 and 20,000 of the animals living in the park through the summer months.

Each animal will have its own preferences when it comes to personal space, but the NPS warns Yellowstone visitors to stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) from elk at all times. If you're not sure what that looks like, close one eye, hold out your arm, and give the animal a thumbs-up. If you can obscure the elk completely with your thumb, you're at a safe distance.

Instead of getting up close, it's safest to observe elk using a zoom lens of a pair of binoculars. More more advice, see 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.