Yellowstone tourists learn why getting in the way of angry elk is a bad idea

Bull elk standing in shallow water at Yellowstone National Park
(Image credit: Getty)

Getting in the way of an irritated elk is never a good idea, as visitors to US National Parks learn the hard way every year. The animals are most aggressive during their mating season (known as the rut), but like all wildlife, they're unpredictable and can lash out at any time if they feel threatened.

Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which highlights examples of bad behavior at US National Parks, has just shared a video showing some incidents from last year's rut at Mammoth Hot Springs.

In the compilation, which you can watch below, bull elk can be seen bluff charging visitors who get too close with their cameras, ramming into cars, and sometimes just glowering until people move further back.

Bison cause more injuries than any other animal at Yellowstone, but the park's huge elk population can be aggressive as well. 

"Elk live here all year, and are wild and unpredictable," says the National Park Service (NPS). "Each year visitors are chased, trapped, and sometimes injured by elk."

The NPS advises staying at least 23 yards (25 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. 

Females tend to be most dangerous during the spring when protecting their calves, while males are at their most unpredictable during the rut, which takes place from September to October. During this time, part visitors can see bulls squaring off against one another, clashing antlers, and bugling in the evening.

The elk are at their most impressive during the rut, and it's spectacular to witness if you're careful and respect the animals' space. If you're planning to check it out later this year, take a look at 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.