HomeOutdoorsWild Photos Show Elk Nearly Attacking Family at Arizona Park

Wild Photos Show Elk Nearly Attacking Family at Arizona Park

by Matthew Memrick
Getty Images

An Arizona family was nearly attacked a big ol’ elk, and a wildlife photographer happened to document the whole thing.

Local photographer Craig Miller was there to shoot some wildlife pictures in late February. His mission to get eagles to smile that day turned into almost fatal crime scene photos of one Arizona mother and her two kids.

No, they likely didn’t get mauled or hurt badly. But it was thrilling to see the photos.

Miller let the Payson Roundup see the pictures, and they wrote a nifty little story with it. You can view a few of the pictures here.

Payson is about an hour, 20-minute drive northeast of Phoenix.

Family Tangles With Elk, Lives To Tell The Story

A spike bull made its way to Rumsey Park.

At first, he saw the elk on the beach volleyball courts while having a little fun. It minded its own business, playing in the sand and “sparring” with the boundary lines.

“After the 2-year-old got himself all worked up, he moseyed over to the adjacent playground, and that’s when things took a quick turn for the not-so-good,” Miller told the newspaper.

Miller said he observed a mother with two young children. The elk took small, curious steps. As the children played, the elk meandered its way over to the family.

Using a telephoto lens, the photographer stood far enough back as he watched the bull elk lower its antlers. Miller described the elk taking a fighting stance, wanting its “opponent” to join him in battle.

He yelled at the family to back up as the mother put herself between the elk and the children. Another man yelled and started to walk toward the family when Craig started shooting his photos. However, he couldn’t locate the family when he finished taking the pictures. He assumed they were OK after the scare.

“Thank the good Lord above that the kids were able to run away from danger and mom was able to get behind a tree,” the man said. 

Miller added while we love to see wild animals roam “our neighborhoods, parks, and roads,” they’re wild creatures “without the reasoning capacity that we humans have.”

Photographer Battles With Decision To Share Photos

Now, back to the photos.

Craig felt torn by what he captured. He said he debated on posting the photos.

“I know, from my own personal experience,” Miller said. “That this mom had to be thinking, in this whirlwind moment, that she and/or her children were going to die.”

But, ultimately, the photographer went through with posting them. He said he shared them “in the hope that maybe someone else may be spared this family’s fear.”

The photographer had a few reminders for avoiding close encounters or the elk kind. 

First, he said the distance was crucial, and having an escape plan (before getting out the cellphone) is necessary. Second, back away slowly from angry elk. Third, if an elk reacts to your presence, you’re way too close.