Tourist demonstrates the worst possible way to act around elk at the Grand Canyon

Pair of elk at Grand Canyon National Park, USA
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You might think that 'don't pet the wildlife' should go without saying at National Parks, but some visitors clearly need reminding because a woman has been spotted at the Grand Canyon doing exactly that.

The visitor was seen approaching one of the many elk that graze on the canyon's south rim, feeding on grasses and shrubs. A video of the incident, shared via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks this week, shows that the animal is likely habituated to such behavior after many similar close encounters, and fails to react.

Habituation of wild animals (when repeated contact causes them to lose their natural wariness around people) is a serious problem. It can lead to accidents like animals biting people trying to hand-feed them, it makes animals more likely to put themselves in danger by approaching traffic, and it can make them easier targets for predators.

"Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in some cases, their survival. When an animal is near a campsite, trail, boardwalk, parking lot, on a road, or in a developed area, leave it alone and give it space," said the NPS.

"Park regulations require that you stay at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all wildlife (including bison, elk and deer) and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves. Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury, and even death."

If you're not sure how much space to allow, try closing one eye, extending your arm, and giving the elk, deer or bison a thumbs-up. If you can completely hide the animal behind your thumb, you're fine to continue watching provided the animal doesn't spot you and change its behavior.

For more advice, see our guides how to enjoy elk rutting season safely and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.

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.