Getting too close to wildlife at US National Parks can have unexpected consequences, as one visitor found out at Mammoth Hot Springs. In a video currently circulating on social media, three people are loitering within a few feet of a small group of elk, when one becomes frustrated and charges, pushing one person into a busy road.
Luckily the traffic is slow enough to stop in time, and the individual is uninjured, but it's easy to see how the situation could have turned out differently.
The video, which you can watch below, appears to have been shot earlier in the year, as one of the elk is a juvenile, which explains the adult's defensive behavior.
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Elk calving season starts around May, and females can be aggressive if they feel their young are being threatened, You should give the animals at least 25 yards (32 meters) of space at all times, but the National Park Service (opens in new tab) explains that during calving season you should be particularly careful not to stumble across one accidentally.
"Stay alert," says the NPS. "Look around corners before exiting buildings or walking around blind spots: cow elk may bed their calves near buildings and cars."
Rather than approaching the animals, it's best to observe them from a comfortable distance using a pair of binoculars or a telephoto lens (see our guide how to use binoculars if you've not done so before).
If you're fortunate enough to visit a National Park in the coming weeks, you won't see very young calves, but you'll be able to witness the male elk (known as bulls) at their most spectacular during the rut. It's a real spectacle as the animals compete for dominance by clashing antlers and bugling.
Again, this is best watched from afar with the right equipment, so come prepared. Our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely will give you all the information and advice you need.
Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 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).
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