The National Park Service is warning visitors to Yellowstone National Park to be extra cautious as the elk calving season has begun and the animals may become particularly aggressive.
The warning comes as the park’s female elk (which are known as cows and can weigh up to 500 pounds) have begun giving birth to their young, a season that typically lasts from May to the end of June. Travellers are warned to stay at least 25 metres away from elk at all times.
The NPS warns that attacks can be “unprovoked and unpredictable”.
“Cow elk are much more aggressive toward people during calving season and may run or kick at you,” the NPS wrote in its alert. “Stay alert. Look around corners before exiting buildings or walking around blind spots: cow elk may place calves near buildings and under cars.”
If an elk does run towards a park visitor, the NPS says they should take cover in their vehicle or “behind a tall, sturdy barrier as quickly as possible”.
In Yellowstone National Park, there are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 elk in six to seven herds, according to the park. In the summer, they are typically found in Cascade Meadows, Madison Canyon and Lamar Valley.
Yellowstone National Park, recently voted the best national park in the United States by the readers of Travel + Leisure, has an abundance of wildlife roaming the park, including 67 different mammals such as bison, elk, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions and wolverines.
According to the NPS, visitors are expected to keep a safe distance from many of the park’s animals, such as at least 100 metres from bears and wolves and at least 25 metres from all other animals. Visitors are also advised never to feed animals, as “animals that become dependent on human food can become aggressive towards humans and must be killed”.
Summer is one of the best times to visit Yellowstone to see its abundant wildlife, especially elk, moose, bison and mountain goats.