WATCH: Bull Elk Charge Sends Moronic Yellowstone National Park Tourists Fleeing for Safety

by Caitlin Berard
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(Photo by Ed Reschke via Getty Images)

When visiting Yellowstone National Park, the most ill-advised thing you can do is approach the wildlife. No, wait. It’s approaching the park’s largest, antlered wildlife. Scratch that. It’s getting within feet of a bull elk during rutting season. No, actually, we’re not there yet.

Okay, okay, I think we have it. When visiting Yellowstone National Park, the absolute most moronic thing you can possibly do is walk right up to a bull elk during rutting season while his mate is grazing nearby. There it is. You know, short of, say, leaving the boardwalk to get within inches of a geyser seconds before it launches a column of boiling hot water 300 feet into the air. Which, believe it or not, has happened. Multiple times.

Here’s a question. Why is it always Yellowstone National Park? Another question. How often are you really going to look at that picture you risked your life and that of the park’s precious wildlife to take?

Finally, here’s a statement. That 5-6 mph trot these tourists are doing to “escape” the bull elk would do absolutely nothing if he were to actually charge instead of the bluff charge he graciously performed as a warning.

Despite their massive size, elk are remarkably fast. A mature bull can run up to 40 mph – fast enough to outrun a horse in a short-distance race. A tourist could not outrun an elk, guaranteed.

Yellowstone National Park Advises Tourists to Stay Away From Bull Elk

Yellowstone National Park does their best. They beg tourists not to approach the wildlife, especially during the rut. They hand out citations and fines like candy. But what’s a few broken bones or a punctured spleen when you have a gorgeous picture of an enraged elk charging toward you? You might even be able to snap an awesome mid-air shot of yourself in flight after receiving a punch from the razor-sharp crown of a 700-pound animal.

Just in case you’re planning a visit to Yellowstone National Park this fall (or any time – these guidelines aren’t limited to the rutting season), here’s what you should actually do. Maintain a distance of at least 25 yards from bull elk and other wildlife at all times. The further, the better.

Feel free to take pictures. Hundreds, thousands of pictures if you want! Just use your camera’s zoom feature rather than walking up to the animals. “Stay alert!” Yellowstone National Park warned in a recent release. “People have been severely injured by elk. Elk run quickly and may change direction without warning.”

“Give them room, use your zoom,” the release continued. “Never approach or pursue animals to take their picture. Zoom lenses with focal lengths up to 300mm-400mm offer a great combination of portability and reach.”

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