WATCH: Yellowstone National Park Rangers Step in When Tourists Tick off Huge Bull Elk

by Lauren Boisvert

There’s a certain irony in watching a family of Yellowstone National Park tourists run from a huge, angry bull elk with a bright red sign in the foreground that warns “Stay Back: Keep 75 feet Away From Animals.” This family deliberately ignored that warning as they walked up and started bothering a bull elk, who nearly charged them.

Park rangers stepped in and put themselves in danger to allow them a quick escape, but that hasn’t always been the case in previous tourist incidents. Essentially, that family is fortunate those rangers were there and willing to selflessly risk their safety to keep them from getting trampled.

In a video posted on Facebook, the family stands far too close to an elk in an area that is clearly marked with a bright red sign. The elk, for its part, is pawing at the ground, looking like it’s getting ready to barrel this family over. If an elk is stamping, pawing, or otherwise tearing up the ground or bushes, that’s one sign that the animal is agitated and is getting ready to protect itself. The next logical progression in an elk’s aggressive display is charging right at you, but the Yellowstone National Park rangers stepped in during this incident before that could happen.

The elk turns away from the family and instead focuses on the rangers coming toward it. The family beats a hasty getaway, which leads me to speculate that they knew exactly what they were doing. They most likely knew they were breaking the rules and they did it anyway. I’m not commenting on anyone’s parenting here, but they kind of leave their kid in the dust as well. The whole situation stinks, is what it comes down to.

Elk Rutting Season is Upon Us in Yellowstone National Park: How to Enjoy the Theatrics But Also Stay Safe

Elk rutting season begins in September in Yellowstone National Park and lasts until October. During this time, male elk vie for a female’s attention by bugling, stamping, and fighting with other bull elk. They show off their huge antlers and become much more aggressive than usual. It’s fun and interesting to watch and learn about animal behavior. But, it’s also incredibly dangerous to get close to elk in rutting season.

So how can you witness the theatrics of rutting season without getting trampled? It’s easier than you think. First thing’s first, follow all rules and guidelines at Yellowstone National Park. Stay on the boardwalk, most importantly. Also, heed the bright red signs that warn you to stay 75 feet/25 yards away from the wildlife.

Secondly, pay attention to indicators of an agitated elk. If a female is feeling threatened, they’ll fold their ears back, raise the hair on their haunches, curl their lips back and grind their teeth. For a male, they’ll often stamp at the ground, thrash at bushes, and lower their antlers before charging. Remember, stay safe out there at Yellowstone National Park, or you might end up as a cautionary tale on Outsider.