A pair of archery hunters in Wyoming captured a dramatic fight between two bull elk earlier this week, and shared the resulting footage online. Seth Lee, from Casper, captured the two animals locking antlers while hunting with a friend.
"I've never seen anything like those bulls fighting," Lee told Wyoming news site Cowboy State Daily. "They just wanted to kill each other."
Neither Lee nor his friend was equipped to take on the animals, so instead they kept quiet and watched, aware that they were much too close for comfort. Luckily for them, the elk seemed not to notice. "They could have stomped on us and not even know it,” said Lee.
Elk can be unpredictable and dangerous, particularly during the rut as males battle for dominance and to protect their harems of females.
Craig Smith, deputy chief of Wyoming Game and Fish Department, says that being near two elk locked in battle can be particularly risky. "In situations like these, elk are very focused and have been observed going through fences, trees, ponds or other obstructions that they would ordinarily avoid,” he told Cowboy State Daily. "If you are in the wrong place, you could be injured or worse."
Elk safety for hikers
If you're out hiking, the National Park Service (NPS) recommends staying at least 25 yards (23 meters) away from elk, and appreciate them using a long lens or binoculars. Your car may also be perceived as a threat if you drive too close. Approaching, distracting, or feeding elk within a National Park is illegal.
"If approached by an elk, visitors should slowly back away to put distance between the animal and themselves creating space for the animal to pass," says the NPS. "If elk are near the roadways, remain in or next to your vehicle at a safe distance from the animal."
If an elk shows signs of distress, such as pawing the ground or twitching its ears, it's a sign that you're too close and should move back to give it space. For more advice, see our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely.
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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).