Yellowstone tourist poses for ill-judged selfie with bull elk during the rut

Bull elk in field bellowing
(Image credit: Getty)

A man visiting Yellowstone National Park recently decided to preserve the moment by stopping for a selfie with a pair of bull elk, posing within inches of the imposing animals. Elk rarely attack people, preferring to leave the area first to avoid close encounters, but bulls can be unpredictable and aggressive during their mating season (known as the rut), which takes place in late summer and early fall.

The incident (which you can watch below) was shared online by Brett Kahler via Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which calls out bad behavior at US National Parks. Other recent close calls have included a woman being chastised by a Park Ranger for peering into Old Faithful, a tourist trying to pet a bison, and a man ripping off his shirt and chasing a wolf through Lamar Valley.

“Here’s a neat shot taken by my father a few weeks ago," Kahler wrote. "Just a selfie with some bull elk!"

Last year, a man was knocked down by a bull elk that charged a group of people who had gathered to watch the animal sparring with a rival. The bull was clearly disturbed by the tourists' presence, stopping its natural behavior, turning to face them, and vocalizing, but the group chose to ignore these clear warning signs.

The National Park Service (NPS) warns visitors to stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) from elk and bison at all times, and to look out for changes in body language that suggest the animal has been disturbed. 

"Cow elk are especially fierce and protective around their calves in the spring," the NPS advises. "Around Mammoth Hot Springs, they often hide calves near cars or buildings. Be cautious when exiting buildings or approaching blind corners. In the fall, bull elk battle for access to cows and challenge other males during the rut. They also charge cars and people who get too close."

If you are charged by an elk, you should try to get inside a building or vehicle as soon as possible, or take shelter behind a large, solid object like a wall or boulder.

If you're planning to visit a National Park to see these spectacular animals this fall, take a look at our guide how to enjoy elk rutting season safely to make sure you have the best possible experience.

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.