Lessons Learned from Interacting with the Elk

I actually saw this viral video before we went to see the Elk.  This was shot a little over a year ago in Catloochee Valley where I had my encounter.  The behavior of the bull in this video is a direct result of people visiting the park and not obeying the rules.  By feeding and approaching these or any other animals not only do you put yourself at risk but others to follow.

The photographer in this video was doing the same thing I was, taking photos from a safe distance when this bull caught him off guard by coming up behind him.  Luckily for this man, the young bull was just being playful and not too serious.  Unfortunately the Park Service had to put this animal down because he was becoming a danger to visitors.  A full-grown male truly rutting could have easily made this a deadly situation.

Elk at Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina
Elk at Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina

From the pictures I took of the herd, it is obvious I was a long way away.  I knew that if something went wrong I needed to be able to walk to the car before anything trying to charge me could get to me.  I knew that following rules and common sense would keep me safe  It never occurred to me that a female would sneak up behind me and get so close to me.  Mind you, I only saw this video before and had not read up on its background story as I have tonight.  I am very lucky my visitor was a female.

I remember years ago visiting the park and a bear cub was stuck in a tree and there were 30-40 people circled around with their children watching it.  The first thing in my mind was to look for mama bear.  I never got out of my car and was grateful when a Ranger showed up.  He royally reamed out the spectators and told them how stupid and irresponsible it was to put their and their children’s lives in danger.

This is a good reminder to myself to be much more aware of my surroundings.  I love wild animals and love to watch them in their natural surroundings. I love to photograph them.  I know that when I step out of the car I am in their home uninvited and respect that.

I won’t stop taking pictures of animals but I can assure you I will be watching my back……

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