Yellowstone National Park is warning visitors that the elk mating season has begun and the animals can be “extremely dangerous.”
The elk rut, as it’s called, runs from early September through mid-October. Bull elk can be heard bugling to announce their availability to females, and while challenging rival males. Dominant males are fiercely protective as they form and guard harems.
Violent clashes between elk occur, and visitors are cautioned not to get between or close to the animals.https://c4dc57bda10a47a340524905cd59b403.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0
“Stay alert! People have been severely injured by elk,” Yellowstone stated in a news release issued Friday. “Elk run quickly and may change direction without warning. If an elk charges you, find shelter in your vehicle or behind a tall, sturdy barrier as quickly as possible.”
Elk are the most abundant large mammal species inside the park, which provides summer refuge for between 10,000 and 20,000 elk. Primary congregation areas during the rut are in the northern region, notably Mammoth Hot Springs and the Madison River.
Bull elk can weigh 700 pounds and measure five feet at the shoulder; female elk are slightly smaller.
Tourists often approach elk during the rut, despite warnings, and there have been serious consequences.
In September 2018, a tourist captured video footage showing a bull elk knocking a man to the ground with its antlers.
As the park stipulates, visitors are responsible for their own safety. Guidelines state that visitors should remain at least 25 yards from elk at all times.
By Pete Thomas