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Unprecedented Warnings Issued in Estes Park After Third Elk Stomping Incident

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In Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, three elk stomping incidents in two weeks have prompted unprecedented warnings. Wildlife officials urge visitors to maintain distance and exercise extreme caution around elk.

In the past two weeks, Estes Park, Colorado, has witnessed a disturbing string of elk stomping incidents, leading wildlife officials to issue unprecedented warnings. These attacks have left multiple people injured and raised serious concerns about human-wildlife interactions in this popular tourist destination.

In Estes Park, Colorado, a 4-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl were attacked and injured by elk, just four days apart. The first incident occurred on Monday afternoon when the boy was playing at a playground near Stanley Park and suddenly a female elk charged and stomped on him repeatedly. The attack was provoked by two hiding elk calves near the play area, according to a news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Thankfully, the children were taken to the hospital and later released.

To ensure the safety of others in the park, an officer from Colorado Parks and Wildlife arrived on the scene and used non-lethal bean bag rounds to haze multiple cow elk away from the area. As of Thursday, there have been no further reports on the location of these particular elk.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Just four days prior, a young girl, only eight years old and riding her bike in the streets of Estes Park at around 1 p.m., was attacked by a cow elk. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife department reported that she was repeatedly stomped on before being rushed to the hospital. Fortunately, she was released later that day.

A responding officer from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department located a mother elk and her calf in the general vicinity. The mother elk displayed aggressive behavior towards the officer, leading to the use of non-lethal bean bag rounds to subdue her. The agency’s health lab requested to study the calf involved in the incident. The adult elk was not put down and sustained no injuries from the bean bag rounds used to calm her down.

Understanding Elk Behavior

Elk are magnificent creatures, known for their impressive size and antlers, which can span up to four feet. However, during certain times of the year, especially during the rutting season (typically late September to early November), their behavior can become highly aggressive. Bull elk are particularly territorial and can perceive humans as threats, especially if they feel their space is being encroached upon.

To protect them from potential predators, calves are commonly kept hidden and out of sight. Unfortunately, this often means that we are also unaware of their presence, as was the case in these situations when the children had no idea there were calves nearby

The rutting season sees male elk compete for the attention of females, leading to heightened aggression and increased likelihood of confrontations. Additionally, cow elk with young calves in the spring can be extremely protective and may charge at anyone they perceive as a threat to their offspring.

Increased Human-Elk Interactions

Estes Park is a popular destination, attracting millions of visitors annually, drawn by its stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife. However, this influx of people increases the likelihood of human-wildlife interactions. Many visitors, unfamiliar with the behavior of elk and other wildlife, may unknowingly put themselves in danger by approaching too closely or not recognizing the warning signs of an agitated animal.

Tourism activities such as wildlife photography, hiking, and camping bring humans into closer proximity with elk habitats. While these activities are part of the allure of Estes Park, they also necessitate a greater emphasis on education and safety.

Warnings and Safety Measures

In light of the recent incidents, CPW has issued a series of warnings and guidelines to help visitors and residents stay safe. These include:

  • Maintain a Safe Distance: Always keep a minimum distance of 50 yards from elk. Use binoculars or a zoom lens for photography to avoid getting too close.
  • Be Aware of Body Language: Elk will display signs of agitation before charging, such as flattening their ears, lowering their heads, and pawing the ground. Recognize these signs and back away slowly if you see them.
  • Do Not Approach or Feed Elk: Feeding wildlife is illegal and dangerous. It can cause animals to lose their natural fear of humans and become more aggressive.
  • Stay Alert: Be aware of your surroundings, especially in areas where elk are known to frequent. Avoid wearing headphones or engaging in activities that can distract you from noticing wildlife nearby.
  • Respect Seasonal Behavior: Understand that elk behavior changes with the seasons. During rutting and calving seasons, elk are more likely to be aggressive.

Community Response

The Estes Park community, heavily reliant on tourism, is responding swiftly to the recent spate of elk attacks. Local businesses, park rangers, and tourism boards are collaborating to disseminate safety information to visitors. Informational signs are being posted at trailheads, visitor centers, and popular viewing areas, reminding people to keep their distance and stay vigilant.

Educational programs are also being ramped up, with wildlife experts giving talks and workshops on safe practices around elk and other wildlife. Social media campaigns are being utilized to reach a broader audience, spreading awareness through platforms frequented by tourists planning their visits.

The Role of Technology

Technology is playing a significant role in enhancing safety measures. The use of geofencing and location-based alerts can notify visitors when they are entering areas with high elk activity. Apps designed for park visitors are being updated to include real-time alerts and educational content on wildlife safety.

Drones and surveillance cameras are being employed to monitor elk movements and identify potential hotspots for human-wildlife interactions. These tools allow park rangers to take preemptive action, such as temporarily closing certain areas or increasing patrols, to mitigate risks.

Long-Term Solutions

Addressing the issue of elk stomping incidents requires a long-term, multifaceted approach. This includes continuous public education, improved signage, and stricter enforcement of wildlife protection laws. Investing in research to better understand elk behavior and their interactions with humans is also crucial.

Furthermore, fostering a culture of respect for wildlife among visitors and residents alike is essential. By promoting responsible tourism and emphasizing the importance of coexisting with nature, Estes Park can ensure the safety of both its human and animal inhabitants.


The recent series of elk stomping incidents in Estes Park serves as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between humans and wildlife. As the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park plays a pivotal role in educating the public and promoting safe practices around these magnificent animals. By heeding the warnings issued by wildlife officials and taking proactive measures to ensure safety, we can continue to enjoy the natural beauty and wildlife of this iconic region while minimizing the risks of dangerous encounters.

In this time of heightened awareness, it is crucial for everyone to remember that while elk are a breathtaking sight, they are also wild animals deserving of respect and caution. Together, through education, vigilance, and responsible behavior, we can prevent further incidents and preserve the harmonious relationship between humans and wildlife in Estes Park.

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