By Russ and Tiña De Maris
When the elk rut is on, it pays to stay out of the way. That’s the lesson from Estes Park, Colorado, after tourists apparently upset a bull elk by taking a photo of one with the camera flash turned on. That wasn’t the only, nor the first, mistake – they were too close to the critter and had no physical barrier between the elk and themselves.
It all took place with lightning speed on September 26, when a couple encountered the elk on a sidewalk. After the fateful photograph was made, the elk quickly charged them. The man leaped over a rock, but the accompanying woman didn’t get off so easy. The elk handily knocked her down, evidently making contact on several occasions with his antlers. When the woman attempted to discourage the bull’s advances, he kept right at it.
Likely sparing her more serious injuries (and possibly her life), a public works employee, Brian Berg, happened on the scene in his pickup truck. He quickly sized up the situation and managed to drive the truck between the bull and the unfortunate woman. This evidently wasn’t making the elk any happier – he quickly gored a neat hole in the side of the truck, but eventually broke off and headed out.
In what was clearly an understatement, the Berg told media outlet CBS4, “That bull was very aggressive. When she [the woman] got up, he kind of went back at her. I was able to drive and park right here, in front of the bull and the people, and he just hit me as soon as I parked. He shook that truck like it was nothing. He put a pretty good hole through it.” Berg added, “I wish I could say it was [uncommon for tourists to approach elk], but no, people are getting too close to the elk all the time. It’s a very dangerous situation.”
Bull elk are particularly aggressive during the mating season, or rut. That season is typically September into October, when competing males round up herds of “significant others” called harems.
So what’s a person to do? Experts in boorish bull behavior say, keep plenty of distance between yourself and elk, preferably with something physically substantial to buffer you. If an elk does approach, clap your hands, shout, even throw things at the beast to discourage it.