"We’ve never seen a year like this” – unprecedented third elk attack in a week sends another person to the hospital

Cow elk grazing in field
There is no evidence to suggest that the same elk has been involved each time (Image credit: Getty)

Officials have described three elk attacks in a single week in one Colorado town as "unprecedented" and called for extra caution among residents and visitors this calving season.

Early Friday morning, a woman was walking her dog on leash in downtown Estes Park, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park, when she startled a cow elk with its calf 20 yards away.

"The woman tried to run behind a tree for safety, but the elk knocked her to the ground, stomping and kicking her several times," reports Colorado Parks and Wildlife in a statement on the incident. 

On Monday, a four-year-old boy was stomped by an elk whilst playing in a park just minutes away from Friday's attack while the previous Thursday, an eight-year-old girl was attacked by an elk while riding her bike. All three victims were sent to the hospital for treatment and though we often report on people misbehaving around elk, officials say each attack was entirely unprovoked.

“We’ve never seen a year like this,” says Jason Duetsch, CPW Area Wildlife Manager. "We have no clear evidence to suggest these attacks were from the same animal, which underscores how uncommon the elk behavior has been.”

Though cow elk with young calves are known to be aggressive, unprovoked attacks from a distance such as these are highly unusual, and the CPW is urging the public to be aware of their surroundings, give elk a wide berth through the early summer and keep dogs on leash at all times.

"Cow elk and cow moose have heightened protective instincts while their newborns are unable to move on their own. Always leave young wildlife alone. While a calf may be unattended, the cow is most likely nearby gathering food," warns the department.

For more information on how to keep yourself safe around wild animals, read our article on wildlife safety with eight tips for surprise encounters.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.