Domesticated cats, dogs and other pets are perfectly fine to snuggle closely, but when it comes to wildlife, the rule is simple: “Don’t get too close.”
Colorado wildlife officials were forced to spread this message to state park visitors after a woman was seen positioning her child near a bull elk in Estes Park for a photo opportunity.
“Every year there’s a case,” said Jason Clay, a spokesperson for Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
The situation could have gotten a lot worse. Bull elk and other animals can be anything but docile during breeding season.
“These animals can get very agitated if you invade their personal space and they can charge at you,” Clay said.
This isn’t the first time park visitors have gotten a little too close for comfort with native wildlife. It may not be the last, either. In other cases, however, offenders may suffer far worse than admonition from state officials.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize just how powerful and fast these animals really are. And if they wanted to they could get right up on you in a heart beat before you could get out of the way,” Clay said.
Not too long after the Estes Park incident, on a golf course in Evergreen, CO, golfer Zak Bornhof was attacked by a bull elk. The animal approached Bornhof without any urging on the golfer’s part, gored Bornhof in the stomach and sliced the man’s kidney in half.
“The doctor told me three inches either way we wouldn’t be sitting here,” Megan Bornhoft told FOX 31 News in Denver. “He said it would have been better to have been stabbed with a knife because of the dirt on the elk antlers.”
Clay offers a simple trick to determine if you are too close to a wild animal.
“You can either put your thumb up and if you can cover that animal’s whole body, then generally you’re a safe distance,” he says. “If you put your hand up and look at the elk through a little circle in your hand and you can see that elk – generally you’re a safe distance.”
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
Help Rescue Animals
Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free! →