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Cat Ellis

Tourist nearly flattened at Grand Canyon after mobbing frightened elk for photos

Cow elk at Grand Canyon National Park.

A woman was nearly trampled at Grand Canyon National Park recently after getting too close to one of the local elk in an attempt to get the perfect photo. The elk had wandered close to a storefront, but rather than move away and give the animal room, a crowd of people gathered to take pictures as close as possible.

In a video shared via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks last week, which you can see below, the elk remains calm at first, but is startled and jumps back when one person brings their dog up for a closer look. 

Like moose, elk tend to mistake domestic dogs for wolves. This causes them undue stress, and can lead to them lashing out and potentially injuring your pet.

Thankfully the person in the video kept their dog leashed (a requirement at the Grand Canyon), but visitors are advised to be mindful of wildlife when visiting with their pets.

"Pets can harass or harm wild animals by making noise, chasing them or catching them," warns the National Park Service (NPS). Dogs are not permitted below the canyon rim, on park shuttle buses, or in park lodging (apart from Yavapai Lodge). They are allowed at Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Village, and throughout developed areas.

Stay safe around elk

Elk rarely attack humans, but the NPS warns that they may kick or chase you if they or their young are threatened. Visitors are asked to stay at least 100ft away at all times, and to watch our for animals grinding their teeth or laying back their ears, which are signs of agitation.

"It's illegal to approach or feed wildlife in Grand Canyon National Park," says the NPS. "Approaching wildlife may cause stress to them and interfere with their ability to survive in the wild. Watching wildlife from a distance not only protects them—it also protects you and helps 'keep wildlife wild'."

For more advice, take a look at our guides how to enjoy elk rutting season safely and wildlife safety: eight tips for surprise encounters.

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