National parks warn of “unpredictable and dangerous” elk as rutting season begins

National parks all over western North America are warning residents and visitors of the annual fall tradition: elk rutting season.

Alberta’s famous Banff National Park wants people to keep their distance — at least 30 metres — during this “sensitive time” of elk mating season, which lasts until mid-October.

“Bull elk will defend their harem of females from anything that they perceive as a threat. Respect their space,” the park posted on social media this week.

Alberta’s Jasper National Park also warns about “extremely aggressive” bull elk now that the rut has started.

People should not only avoid getting too close to elk, but also never get between a male and the females. And, dogs should remain on leash. Dogs can be seen to elk as predators such as wolves or coyotes.

To the south, Yellowstone National Park is also in the midst of fall elk mating season.

“Bull elk can be unpredictable and dangerous during this time,” Yellowstone explains. “People have been severely injured by elk. Elk run quickly and may change direction without warning.”

It’s also that time of year in Grand Canyon National Park.

And, it’s happening in Rocky Mountain National Park, which has brought in closures to protect animals and people.

If you do find yourself between an aggressive bull elk and his ladies, Parks Canada has a few suggestions.

  • Carry bear spray, a walking stick or an umbrella.
  • Act dominant if an elk gets too close.
  • Raise your arms or any big object to make yourself appear larger.
  • Maintain eye contact; never turn your back or run.
  • Climb a tree or keep an object, like a tree or large rock, between you and the elk.
  • Back slowly out of the area.
  • If you are knocked down or fall, get up and try to move to cover or use an object to protect yourself.
  • Do not play dead.

Main Photo: Banff National Park/Facebook

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