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Cat Ellis

There's a right way and a wrong way to photograph elk in the wild – this is the WRONG way

Bull elk in woodland, USA.

Elk use their antlers to display dominance and spar during the mating season, but they will also readily use them to defend themselves against potential threats, including careless photographers. That's a lesson a man almost learned the hard way at Banff National Park when he almost sat on a bull elk as he posed for selfies with the animal.

A video of the close call (which you can see below) was shared this week via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, which calls out bad behavior at sites of natural beauty around the world. Bull elk are most aggressive during the rut in the fall, but can be unpredictable and dangerous all year round. This bull's antlers are still covered in velvet, but he shouldn't be underestimated.

It's rare for elk to attack people, but it does sometimes happen. It's most common when dogs are involved, but officials are currently investigating an incident last week when a young girl was attacked by a cow elk, seemingly without provocation.

“This is an unusual and unfortunate situation where a young girl was playing outside, far from the calf, and a cow elk became aggressive to protect her newborn,” said Jason Duetsch, Area Wildlife Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). 

The cow became aggressive again when a CPW officer arrived on the scene, prompting him to haze the animal with a non-lethal beanbag round.

No tolerance for humans

Parks Canada warns visitors to respect elk, and to give the animals plenty of space when exploring Banff.

"Just because you see them in town, on playing fields or feeding near the roadside, please don't mistake these elk for tame animals," the organization explains. "These wild animals do not have a tolerance of humans getting too close and will lash out with hooves or charge with antlers forward if disturbed."

For more advice on what to do if you encounter an elk during a hike, check out our guide wildlife safety: eight tips for surprise encounters.

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