Cataloochee Elk by Brian Stansberry

Top Tips on How to Prevent and Deal with Elk Attacks

By Eva Kurilova

Elk are one of the largest land mammals in all of North America. Their large size and equally large and impressive antlers make these creatures very beautiful to behold. However, these attributes also make elk very dangerous. Though aggressive year round, males are particularly apt to attack in the fall during rutting season, while females are extra dangerous in the spring, during calving season.

When it comes to elk, it is always best to err on the side of caution and follow the tips below.

Preventative Measures That Will Keep You Safe

Preventing an elk attack is relatively easy, yet many people still wind up getting hurt every year because they can’t help themselves and approach far too close to a herd of elk in order to snap a picture! There are ways that you can spend some time watching these animals and stay safe while you’re at it.

First of all, you need to make sure that you always keep a distance of at least 30 meters (about 100 feet) between you and an elk. This is equivalent to roughly 3 full bus lengths. Even at this distance you should be ready to back off if the elk begin to grind their teeth and point their ears, as such behavior indicates that they are agitated.

If you see a herd of elk by the road and they are closer than 30 metres, then do not get out of your car. You can slow down or pull over for a while if you want (though only if it is safe to do so), but you should stay within your vehicle.

When It’s Too Late to Take Preventative Action

Perhaps you didn’t follow the rules above closely enough, or perhaps you were hiking and stumbled upon an elk that you didn’t know was so nearby. Either way, the elk is likely to get agitated and some may show an aggressive response.

In this case, it is important not to panic and to be quick on your feet. If the elk begins to charge, then the worst thing you can do is stand still. When elk charge, they find it very difficult to pivot at the same time. Your best bet in this scenario would be to get behind a large rock or a tree. If you manage to evade the elk for a short time, then it will likely expend too much energy and back off.

Image By Brian StansberryOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

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