I Hate Elk

Thermal Spring (Yellowstone 2009)


One of my first blog posts (back in August) was about my trip to Yellowstone National Park.  I walked away with several photos I was quite happy with.  I also walked away with several stories.  While shooting the thermal pools at the West Thumb Geyser Basin, we were confronted by a male elk.  It started about 20 to 30 yards away from us, and continued to approach us.  My guess is that it was wanting to head the same direction we were going.  As it got closer, it decided to “challenge” us.  It crossed the boardwalk, then pinned us between its antlers and a boiling thermal pool known as the Abyss.  It lowered its antlers at my girlfriend and I (though mostly me) 4 or 5 times.  They were within about a foot and a half of my face.  The object I’m holding is my 8×10 view camera.

My girlfriend was on the ball, and recorded the entire thing in HD with my canon powershot elph SD780.




6 Responses to “I Hate Elk”

  1. Mike Serrano Says:

    The best blogs are were you can have a discussion.

    Elk are wild for a reason and should stay that way. Human interaction isn’t appropriate but acceptable in the park for some odd reason. It’s their place even though there is a walkway there.

    The question is… . Is you emotion towards the animal even valid?

    • Ben Horne Says:

      I’m not sure that you read the details in my post. We were a very safe distance away from the animal (20 to 30 yards), but it approached us. We did not approach it. As we came around a corner on the boardwalk, the animal came into view behind some trees. It is not as though we sought out an encounter with it. I have respect for such large animals. Surely you realize that the title of my post is tongue in cheek.

  2. Mike Serrano Says:

    Reguardless of wether you like the animal or not you are in it’s territory. When you don’t back away from animal that could be considered confrontational (Antlers) and at 30 yards you should be on alert. Maybe aware of your suroundings as well, at least for the safety of your girlfriend. Before venturing off into places where this might occur knowing what to might be a good idea. Obviously you were minding your own business but whe the elk began in your direction it was trying to identify you. You did the right thing but from the what you have mentioned it feels pretty last minute. Lowering of the antlers obviously meant leave the area it is mine. If a animal feels threatened, it will attack, the same as you might. During or near rutting season you should know instantly it’s time to move away from the bull elk with it’s large antlers and razor sharp hooves. Elk or deer don’t confront people unless you let them get close enough. Even though the encounter wasn’t sought out your reaction was exploitation at the animals expense.

    It’s a good thing you had the camera as a shield when the bull finally sized you up otherwise you might of ended up in the water and part of park news.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      I’m not sure if you are aware of the West Thumb Geyser Basin, or how it is laid out. In the area near the Abyss pool, the boardwalk turns a corner. There is geyser basin continues to the north. The elk was located there, and was heading toward us. There is no way to move that will take us away from the path of the animal because it was heading in our direction. We tried to remain calm and stay still. This is when it approached us with a faster pace. We wanted nothing to do with the animal, but it was following us.

      You mention that lowering its antlers is a signal to leave the area. Yes, this would seem to make sense. However, I must disagree with this. If you watch the video, you will see that this is exactly what we tried to do. We tried to slowly back away, and not make eye contact with the animal. As we started to slowly back away from the animal, it once again confronted us. It was making a clear statement. “This is my territory, you will submit to my dominance.” Our slowly backing away was not submitting to his dominance, so we found that staying stationary was our best plan. The information available to me spoke of what to do during bear encounters, as well as other animals, but not elk. Play A (slowly back away) did not work, so I tried plan B (stay still, like a tree). This worked fine. This is not the result of last minute decisions. I had it in mind as soon as I saw the Elk heading in our direction with no way for us to escape.

      I’m not sure how our reaction (of ultimately standing still) was “exploitation at the animals expense”. The animal was clearly not exploited. He approached us because there was good grazing behind us (from as much as I can tell). It made a gesture of dominance, and I was more than happy to be submissive.

  3. Martin Stankiewicz Says:

    Ben, I’m not surprised. Its amazing how much interest and attention you attract using an 8×10 camera. Cheers!

    Interesting encounter and I think you handled it well.

  4. Ron Richins Says:

    Wow. This is an interesting video.

    While in Zion, I saw 2 bucks fighting; they wanted to kill each other. That and this video show that these timid herbivores aren’t the harmless creatures I thought they were.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: