A group of at least six people have been caught on camera following an elk herd at Estes Park, Colorado, with several even shucking their shoes to follow the animals into a lake.
The incident was recorded by Shannon Faith and shared via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, which calls out bad behavior at sites of natural beauty often involving wildlife. Other recent close calls have included a person leading their young child onto a cliff overlooking a waterfall, a woman trying to hide from a moose behind a rotten tree stump, and a man chasing a bear out of a tree using a drone.
"I watched for 20 minutes in awe of the stupidity!" wrote Faith, who says the people ran through traffic to get close to the animals. "The elk got out of the water just as mad as they were getting in. Charging, etc and all people wanted to do was follow them."
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Estes Park is well known for its huge population of elk, and even holds an annual festival dedicated to the animals. Local residents and business owners are used to living alongside elk (including one particularly curious cow with a habit of wandering into stores) and know to treat them with care and respect, but sadly not all visitors take the same precautions.
Attacks on people are rare, but they do sometimes happen, particularly in spring when cows are protecting their calves, and in fall when males are competing with one another for the right to mate.
In 2019, two people were injured after several visitors strayed too close to a bull elk at Estes Park, and in 2020 a man suffered a split kidney after being attacked by an elk on a Colorado golf course.
"Please maintain proper wildlife safety when observing the majestic creatures. The most important is to give them their space," says local tourism site Visit Estes Park. "Keep at least 75 feet between you and the elk, about the length of two school buses. If the elk notice you, you’re too close!"
If you're planning a trip to a National Park in the coming weeks, our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely will help ensure you and the animals have the best possible experience. You might also like to check out our list of six wildlife photography tips from a pro, which will help you capture the experience like a professional.
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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.