WATCH: Elk Chomps Down on Kid’s Finger at Rocky Mountain National Park as Family Films Encounter

by Caitlin Berard

When enjoying the sites and sounds of Rocky Mountain National Park, there are a few rules every visitor must follow. Hunting is strictly prohibited. If you have a license, fishing is okay, as long as you follow the catch and release regulations. And though hiking is, of course, encouraged, it’s vital that you remain on the designated paths and trails, for the safety of both yourself and the native flora and fauna.

In addition to the breathtaking scenery, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the country’s most awe-inspiring wildlife. You might see a group of Bighorn sheep lounging in a meadow or an adorable mountain chickadee sunbathing in a tree.

Seeing these beautiful animals in their natural habitat can make approaching them incredibly tempting. But there are absolutely no circumstances under which you should, no matter how inviting the scene might seem.

Approaching a wild animal can result in serious injury and even death, which is why every national and state park in the country forbids it.

Now, does that mean all animals are inherently dangerous? Of course not. When visiting an outdoor space like Rocky Mountain National Park, you don’t have to worry about a vicious pack of mule deer or a ravenous elk out for blood.

But two things can be true at once. Just because these animals aren’t natural predators doesn’t mean they’re entirely harmless. As such, it’s never a good idea to, say, put your fingers in range of an elk’s mouth while it’s eating. Or, I don’t know, film your child doing it.

Child at Rocky Mountain National Park Suffers Elk Bite With Parents Filming

It’s not only unwise to touch a wild resident of the country’s national parks but actually illegal as well. According to the Rocky Mountain National Park website, it’s unlawful to “feed, touch, tease, frighten, or intentionally disturb wildlife.”

Going against these warnings can result in fines and even jail time. Visitors should maintain a distance of at least 75 feet, or two bus lengths, away from gentler animals like elk and bighorn sheep and an even greater distance from more dangerous species like moose and bears.

Alas, it’s not at all uncommon to see visitors break these rules, putting both themselves and the animal in harm’s way. And one family made a particularly…interesting…decision when they not only didn’t advise their child against touching an elk near a pathway but encouraged him to break the law, filming all the while.

Now, it’s not the child’s fault. He didn’t know any better. But that didn’t stop the elk from chomping down on his outstretched fingers. Thankfully, the child wasn’t seriously injured, and the adults in the group will hopefully make a wiser decision next time.