You can’t argue that America’s national parks have seen their fair share of wild weather this year. From waterfalls in Death Valley to devastating flooding in Yellowstone to scorching wildfires in Yosemite, our parks have endured a lot. Not only does it affect us, but it has dire consequences for our animals. For instance, Yellowstone’s elk population has had to make necessary adjustments following historic flooding that ravaged the park this summer.
In June, footage of the park’s fast-moving water revealed how it’s taking a toll on the park’s elk population. On June 7, Lisa Erdenberger shot a video of an elk’s calf reuniting with its mom after the calf had to make its way across the swift-moving rapids.
In the video’s description, Erdenberger wrote: “Elk and her calf were on one side of the river in Yellowstone. Mom swam across wanting the calf to follow. It took a little bit to get the courage to cross. What a brave swim with a great ending.”
The first minute of the clip shows the calf finding the courage to make its way into the river while mom watches intently from the opposite side.
Researchers attempt to draw conclusions following Yellowstone’s historic flooding
Once the calf wades into the water, the calf is immediately carried downstream. Thankfully, the calf gets to the shore after a few intense moments. Meanwhile, a group of tourists cheer after the calf reaches land.
Although this was a happy ending for mom and her baby, it was later overshadowed by torrential rainfall from snowmelt that arrived days later. This additional flooding caused more unprecedented flooding and severe damage to the park’s roads and infrastructure.
According to experts, Yellowstone’s disastrous flooding was triggered by early heavy rains hitting the snowpack.
“In heavy spring flooding, it’s typically a combination of snowmelt and early-season rain,” Don Day, a Cheyenne meteorologist, said. “If you look at the records of flooding on Wyoming’s major rivers, it’s in that May-June timeframe.”
According to Day, the dangerous combination of snowmelt and rain on already wet ground in Yellowstone was “A perfect storm, so to speak … unfortunately,” Tony Bergantino said. He’s the director of the Water Resources Data System-Wyoming State Climate Office at the University of Wyoming.
Elk mating season: what to know
Now, park officials in Yellowstone are reminding the public to be mindful of elk mating season. During the mating season, also known as ‘the rut,’ bull elk can be aggressive and unpredictable.
“Stay alert!” the park said in a recent news release. “People have been severely injured by elk. Elk sprint and may change direction without warning.”
According to park officials, there are different steps you can take should you come across an elk during this period. Firstly, stay a safe distance from the animal. The park service recommends staying at least 25 yards away.
In addition, never approach them to take their picture. However, if an elk charges you, find safety behind your vehicle or a barrier. However, run away if a nearby shelter is not available.