WATCH: Elk Bulls Spar While Bystander Stands Entirely Too Close

by Jon D. B.

Despite the immense size and full-rut aggression of both bull elk, this chap decided right next to them was the place to be.

Ah, natural selection. By no means is anyone wishing impalement upon this individual. Instead, let’s use his remarkably oblivious nature as a teaching moment, shall we?

Within the footage, two exceptional wapiti spar as many more of the species trumpet in the background. It is undoubtedly a rut-fueled contest for a mate… The elk’s massive racks locked in mortal combat. Dramatics aside, this bystander’s antics are all-too-common.

It goes without saying for fellow Outsiders, but elk are enormous. Gigantic enormous. They have antlers to match, too. Used in everything from such mating displays to a bull’s offense and defense, a male wapiti’s full rack can span over five feet, stand four feet high, and weigh 40 pounds on its own. Moreover, these incredible appendages can grow a solid inch in just one day. Needless to say, standing ten feet from two sets being used as intenders of death is far from a solid plan!

Without a doubt, this thought had to occur to the filming party of this footage – who is intelligently standing really far away. Other thoughts as he filmed may have included “I wonder which red-seeing bull elk will impale this dressed-for-a-picnic guy first…” or “does blood permanently stain gingham?”

Thankfully, we do not get the answers to these questions. Instead, we’re treated to an intense sparring round between two remarkable bull elk and a cameo from that guy.

“Two elks in combat, with a spectator who is probably bit too close,” Great Outdoors captions the bout on Twitter with the understatement of the year:

No location or further detail for the for the footage is given. What we can offer, however, is the following.

On Bull Elk and How Not to Be That Guy

While typically not associated with human fatalities, elk are enormous mammals and can be extremely dangerous – even deadly. If provoked or made to feel threatened, bulls will readily attack any opponent. Previous coverage of ours details this in shocking detail, like in this example of a bull elk charging a golf cart and goring a golfer’s kidney with his antler.

“A massive bull elk came charging to their cart, knocking it sideways and stabbing Bornhoft through the stomach,” this author’s former article reads. “The elk’s pointed antler came all the way through Zak’s body – slicing his left kidney in two.”

Thankfully, the golfer (Mr. Bornhoft) lived to tell the tale. Yet these close calls, whether in private golfing ranges or U.S. National Parks, nearly all happen in locations with sanctioned wildlife rules designed to keep patrons and visitors alive and breathing.

Indeed, every single U.S. National Park has guidelines and regulations in place to keep you safe around native species – big or small. A large majority revolve around keeping a several-hundred-foot distance from megafauna such as elk, bison, moose, and of course – bears.

Yellowstone National Park, in particular, holds strict guidelines on visitors for wildlife:

“Never approach animals”

Never approach animals. The animals in Yellowstone are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be. The safest (and often best) view of wildlife is from inside a car. Always stay at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all other animals, including bison and elk,” NPS’s safety regulations read.

In addition, Yellowstone will always warn visitors of elk rutting season. Bull elk will spar over territory and aggressive behavior year-round, but become particularly volatile during their mating season.

“In the fall, bull elk battle for access to cows and challenge other males during the rut. They also charge cars and people who get too close,” the park adds.

Yet it is not just bulls and rut that prove exceptionally dangerous for us human bystanders.

“Cow elk are especially fierce and protective around their calves in the spring,” Yellowstone continues. “Around Mammoth Hot Springs, they often hide calves near cars or buildings. Be cautious when exiting buildings or approaching blind corners.”

So what can you do to help ward off a dangerous encounter? Most importantly: keep your distance as advised. Remaining in a vehicle is always the safest route when viewing megafauna.

If this is not an option, however, or you find yourself victim to the element of surprise, Yellowstone details that “you can sometimes stop a charging elk by making yourself look bigger, yelling loudly, and aggressively waving your arms or a jacket. Always stay at least 25 yards (23 m) away from elk,” the park reiterates.