Though they might not appear threatening, elk can be aggressive and attack without warning. In the spring calving season (May - June) female elk aggressively defend their young. During the fall mating season (Aug - Sept), male elk are particularly belligerent. Do not approach elk in any season as they are dangerous.
During rutting season, bull elk will attack anything that comes too close to them or their mates.
Danger signs during rutting season:
- You are in danger if a bull elk appears agitated, has his antlers lowered towards you, and is pawing the ground or thrashing bushes
- Charging is another obvious danger sign
During calving season, protective mothers will aggressively protect their newborns by kicking and charging at people.
Danger signs during calving season:
- Female elk is staring directly at you with flattened ears and raised rump hair, along with curled lips and grinding teeth
- Additional danger signs include charging or kicking, and circling or following
Viewing elk safely
They key to safe wildlife viewing is giving elk and other animals the space they need. For elk, we recommend at least 30 meters. Photograph the animal in its natural environment or use a telephoto lens rather than moving closer to the animal. Do not stalk or follow elk into the bush, nor try enticing them with food or by simulating animal calls. And while it might be temping, taking a selfie with wildlife is dangerous; never put people (especially children) at risk by posing them with wildlife.
- Give elk the space they need; we recommend staying at least 30 meters away
- Keep children within arms’ reach and always keep dogs on a leash
- Travel in groups and carry a walking stick, pepper spray or umbrella
- During calving season, avoid lone female elk and lone calves. It is recommended to walk on open roads rather than forest trails to avoid stumbling upon female elk or calves
- During rutting season, never stand or park your car between a male and the females, you may be attacked
- Act dominant if an elk gets too close
- Seek protection behind a tree or vehicle
- Raise your arms or flap a jacket to make yourself appear larger
- Maintain eye contact and move away
- Contact encounters are rare - if knocked down get up and move away. Do not play dead!