Banff National Park

Elk Safety

Elk can be aggressive and attack without warning. During the fall mating season (Aug - Sept) male are particularly belligerent. During the spring calving season (may - June) female elk aggressively defend their young. DO NOT approach elk in any season as they are DANGEROUS.

Minding Your Elk Manners (or How to Behave in Elk Country)

Just because you see them in town, on playing fields or feeding near the roadside, please don ‘t mistake these elk for tame animals. 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.

  • Always keep a safe distance away from wildlife. We recommend keeping 30 metres, or 3 bus lengths, away from elk for safety.
  • If an elk becomes alert or nervous, grinds its teeth or sends its ears back, you're too close - back off.
  • Use binoculars or a telephoto lens on your camera to get a closer look. Your vehicle is an ideal "blind" to take photographs from, but don't spend too much time taking pictures - you could cause an "elk jam."
  • Never approach or feed any park wildlife for their well-being as well as yours.
  • Never come between a cow and her calf or between any group of elk -- period.

The key to safely viewing elk is to respect their wildness and need for space.

Special Closures

During the spring calving season, some areas may be closed to human activity. This is to avoid elk and human conflicts. Remember that a mother elk is extremely defensive if she thinks her calf is in danger. She will strike out with her formidable hooves. People have been hurt in the past by inadvertantly coming too close to a cow and her calf. Check with park information centres for recommended places to hike at this time of year and of seasonal closures. Obey all notices and warnings concerning any wildlife.

Enjoy Banff's Elk. National Parks are the few places where large animals, such as elk, and their habitats are protected. This means they are also excellent places to learn about our natural heritage. Banff is one of the few places where we have the opportunity to co-exist with elk.