Yellowstone tourists get an instant safety lesson after posing kids among elk for photos

Cow elk and calf at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
(Image credit: Getty)

A family has been caught posing two young children for photos among elk at Yellowstone National Park – much to the frustration of  Park Rangers, who swiftly intervened upon spotting the children dangerously close to the animals.

Ty Mixon, who shared photos of the incident via Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, said he was surprised to see people acting so carelessly around the local animals just two days into his stay at Yellowstone, but commented that a Park Ranger handled the situation quickly. Mixon's first photo (which you can see below) shows the children being encouraged to stand right in front of an elk, while the second shows a  Ranger striding purposefully towards them to deliver some strong words.

Elk attacks are rare, but they do happen and sometimes result in serious injury. In 2020 a man was gored by an elk on a Colorado golf course, and in 2019 two people were injured in an elk attack in the town of Estes Park. In 2018, two people were hospitalized after being attacked by a particularly protective cow elk at Yellowstone.

Cows are particularly likely to attack at this time of year, when they are likely to be defending their calves. Even if a calf appears to be alone, it's important to never approach it; the animal is unlikely to have been abandoned, and its mother is probably foraging nearby.

Touching wild animals can put them in serious danger. Last spring, two people put a baby elk in their car at Yellowstone National Park, believing it to be abandoned, and drove it to a nearby police station. When they arrived, the young animal jumped out of the vehicle and ran into nearby woods. Its fate is unknown, but without its mother, it may not have survived.

Wildlife safety

Elk are at their most impressive during the rut in the fall, and it's spectacular to witness if you're careful and respect the animals' space. If you're planning to check it out next year, take a look at our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely.

The NPS advises staying at least 25 yards (23 meters) from elk at all times. If you're not sure what that looks like, hold out your arm, close one eye, and give the elk a thumbs-up. If you can't hide the whole animal behind your thumb, you need to back up. It's wisest to appreciate them from the safety of your car, or use a pair of binoculars or a long lens. 

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.