Elk Attack in Estes Park (+Safety Tips)

Pep Dekker

Elk Attack in Estes Park

Each year, tourists flock to Estes Park to view the stunning scenery and beautiful wildlife. 

However, many of them don’t know that they need to be careful around these wild animals – especially elk! 

You might have heard stories about elk attacks in Estes Park. Surrounded by the phenomenal Rocky Mountain National Park, residents of Estes Park are no strangers to seeing wild elk wandering the streets!

However, elk tend to avoid humans, and these attacks are in reality less common than you might think. To ease your worries, we’ll dive into:

  • Past instances of elk attacks in Estes Park
  • The potential causes of elk attacks
  • Some tips for staying safe around wildlife.

Let’s get into it!

Elk Attacks in Estes Park

Every Estes Park local has a story about elks. You might’ve even seen videos floating around social media of elks charging at people! 

While there have been plenty of elk attack reports over the years, they’re not all that common. However, let’s discuss a few distinct reports we’ve seen!

In September 2017, an elk attacked two women within an hour of each other. 

The first woman was part of a larger group who were watching elk early in the morning. 

She was unexpectedly charged from behind and got knocked to the ground. Thankfully, she wasn’t gravely injured and was treated at a local hospital.

Another woman who was out for a jog was also attacked by the same elk. When she tried to turn around and move away, the elk charged her and knocked her to the ground. 

Authorities knew that the elk had aggressive tendencies, and it was euthanized the same day.

These two incidents are unfortunate examples of people being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Both women accidentally got too close and came into harm’s way.

Another elk attack occurred in September 2022 when an elk charged a tourist who got too close. 

The incident was caught on camera by another tourist who had noticed the man was deliberately trying to get the elk’s attention. 

Thankfully he wasn’t injured, although he was likely very shaken up by the incident.

This goes to show you should always keep your distance and do your best not to aggravate the animals. 

Being loud and annoying will, unfortunately, attract the elk’s attention and could have serious consequences if they’re feeling aggressive.

Elks are also known to attack other animals around the birthing season.

In November 2023, a couple and their two dogs were charged by a female elk outside their Estes Park home. 

The elk’s calf was nesting in a bush across the street, which caused it to become aggressive and protective.

Luckily, the couple managed to get themselves and their dogs back inside the house before the elk got too close. 

This goes to show that elk attacks can be quite common in Estes Park, even if you’re a local! However, it’s good to know that getting injured is far less common.

Possible Causes of the Attacks 

We can point to a few distinct reasons as to why elks attack humans. It’s both down to the time of year, and the ways that humans react around the elk.

Male elk tend to be more aggressive during mating season 

As I mentioned earlier, male elk are more aggressive during the fall from around mid-September to late October. 

This is because this period is their rutting season, which is where they compete for female mates. 

The male elk become more aggressive with each other; you might even spot them locking antlers in a battle for dominance!

Tensions are running high for the male elk during this time. This is why you should always stay alert and keep your distance. Elks are more likely to go out of their way and approach humans during this time.

They might feel provoked by human behavior 

Many people think elk are docile or harmless. 

In reality, they’re just ignoring you, and their behavior can be quite unpredictable. 

That’s why you always need to be cautious when wildlife watching! Don’t stray too close, and don’t do anything that would provoke the animals.

For example, making loud noises like shouting, playing music, or slamming car doors can easily startle the elk. 

This draws their attention to you and might cause them to engage. A general rule you can follow is if the elk seems aware of your presence, you might want to try to back off!

Female elk get protective during the spring 

While male elk are aggressive in the fall, female elk are more hostile during the spring. This is because spring is the birthing season for the elk. 

If you visit during May or June, you might see lots of calves running around. While they might be cute, don’t try to approach them!

Female elk are known to be very protective of their young. They can become stressed and aggressive if they feel their calves have been threatened, so your best bet is to always keep a good distance.

How the Authorities are Reacting 

The local authorities in Estes Park are thankfully taking plenty of measures to ensure tourists are aware of the potential danger of elk attacks. 

They are spreading awareness and providing safety tips to keep locals and tourists vigilant.

Tourism offices in Estes Park as well as Rocky Mountain National Park are doing their best to warn tourists. 

They’re distributing pamphlets and putting up signs to remind people to not get too close! This gets ramped up in the fall during the rutting season. Male elks are more likely to become aggressive if a visitor strays too close.

It’s also important to note that local authorities do keep tabs on certain elk that show aggressive tendencies. Just remember the incident where the elk had to be put down after attacking two separate women.

Elk Safety Tips 

When it comes to staying safe while animal watching, there are a few general rules you can follow. Keep these in mind when you’re out and about in Estes Park.

The most important tip is to always keep your distance. It might be tempting to get up close for that perfect shot – but trust me, you can still get a good shot from further away!

Take a camera with a zoom-in lens instead to grab a good photo. A good rule of thumb is to be around 25 yards (20 meters) away from the elk at all times. If an elk is aware of your presence, you’re probably too close!

Don’t forget to always be alert. Stick together in large groups and don’t go wandering off. 

There’s safety in numbers, so hanging around other tourists can be a good way to stay safe while out animal watching.

You should also remember to never approach the calves. As I discussed earlier, elk are very protective of their young – especially during spring. Keep as far away as you can.

Finally, remember to practice Leave No Trace rules; specifically, principle #6: respect wildlife

Leave No Trace rules encourage you to leave wildlife as you found it. Don’t do anything that would disturb the animals, such as making loud noises or trying to feed them. 

Make sure you shut car doors quietly, and keep conversation low. If you follow these tips, you’ll be sure to become a pro-animal watcher!

  • Keep your distance (around 25 yards/20 meters)
  • Bring binoculars to get a good look from afar
  • Never approach the calves
  • Avoid startling or provocative actions
  • Group up and stay alert
  • Practice Leave No Trace Rules
  • Don’t try to feed them
  • Keep pets away.


  • Pep Dekker

    Hey. I’m Pep, Paige's husband, and dad to Juliana, Lucille and Maxine. I'm founder and writer here at EstesPark.com. I've been living full-time in Estes Park for 3 years now and been visting the Estes Valley for 8. I'm a seasoned traveller, and all around expert on all things Estes Park, Colorado and I'm excited to share all that I've learned with you.