Video: frustrated elk teaches Estes Park tourist who's in charge

Bull elk bugling in the fall
(Image credit: Getty)

A tourist visiting Estes Park, Colorado, got a shock recently when she strayed too close to one of the park's magnificent bull elk. The woman strayed too close to the animal near a parking lot, causing it to lower its head and display its antlers in a show of aggression.

Although generally timid, elk are wild animals and can be unpredictable, particularly if they feel that they, their young, or their food source are threatened. This time the elk didn't charge, but people have been seriously injured after antagonising the animals this way (usually by being knocked over and trampled).

The incident was captured on video by kindergarten assistant Melissa Henderson, and shared by Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which specializes in highlighting bad behavior at US National Parks and other sites of natural beauty (often involving wildlife).

Estes Park, which often serves as a base for people visiting nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, is a picturesque town famed for its elk population, and even holds an annual festival dedicated to the animals.

The town is particularly popular during the rutting season in the fall, when bull elk can be seen displaying their magnificent antlers, butting heads, and bugling as they assert their dominance. 

However, local authorities are keen to remind visitors that elk are best viewed from a distance, particularly during the rut when males can be territorial and aggressive. 

"Every day our dispatch center receives numerous calls for police officers to respond to elk issues around town, and the vast majority of issues are caused by people," says Estes Park Police Chief Wes Kufeld. The main problems are caused when people get too close to the animals, or park in the way of traffic to watch them, creating 'elk jams'.

The National Park Service advises visitors to stay at least 75 feet (23 meters) away from elk and bighorn sheep at nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. You should never attempt to disturb an animal to get its attention, and if an animal approaches, you should back away to maintain a safe distance.

For more advice, see our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely.

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.