Massive Gang of Elk Sit in on Montana High School Football Practice

by Craig Garrett
Herd of Roosevelt Elk rest alongside Hwy 101 in the California Pacific Northwest with bull Elk to the front - stock photo

Recently, a video was shared of elk taking over the sidelines of a high school football field in Gardiner, Montana. Cindy Shaffer, a native of Montana, frequently posts videos from her visits to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park. In the video, Shaffer shows a herd of one bull elk and at least twelve cows watching a Gardiner High School Bruins football practice. USA Today shared the footage.

Shaffer’s narration of the clip is hilarious. “So I’m here at the school and these boys are having football practice with that big bull elk and his harem on the sidelines. It’s hilarious. Look, they’re right there. Mr. Big. I wish he’d give us a bugle. Welcome to Gardiner during elk rut.” It appears the practice went along mostly undisturbed.

Although elk might appear lazy and uninterested, they can be dangerous. It is essential to know how to stay safe around them when you’re in their territory- whether that’s the Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky  Mountains, California redwood forests, or Washington Olympic rain forests. They are larger than both black bears and grizzly bears.

Late spring and early summer, as well as September and October, are the two periods of increased elk aggression. Beware while hiking in areas where these animals reside. The females become especially aggressive during calving season to protect their young, while bulls attack anything they deem a threat to their harem during mating season.

How to best handle an elk encounter

Elk are huge animals—females may weigh 500 pounds and males 700 pounds. Obviously, they can pose a serious threat if provoked. They become particularly aggressive around the fall when it’s mating season. In western North America, they live in mountainous regions. Here’s what to do if you come across elk: Keep your distance. Keep them at least 50 yards apart from you. Never touch or go near their calves. If an elk approaches you, slowly back away. Allow the animal room to pass.

If you see a wild animal and it seems to be reacting negatively to your presence, then you are too close. Some signs that an elk is feeling uncomfortable or threatened around you include grinding its teeth, sending its ears backward, curling its lips, and raising the hair on its rump. Other indications that you’re getting too close for comfort are charging, kicking, stopping feeding altogether, and circling around you. In these cases, it would be best if you back away slowly until the animal feels comfortable again.

If an elk attacks, here are your best options. When an animal charges, don’t ever run away. Create a barrier behind a tree, rock, or car to protect yourself. Keep your head and neck safe.