Elk Rut Causes Safety Hazards in Yellowstone
Contact: Al Nash, 307-344-2015
Contact: Stacy Vallie, 307-344-2015
National Park Service
Yellowstone National Park
Elk charging vehicle (photo courtesy of Edward Suthoff)
Elk Patrol (NPS photo by Jim Peaco)
Issues involving people and wildlife are a year ‘round challenge for rangers in Yellowstone National Park, but never more so than when elk gather at Mammoth Hot Springs in the fall.
The onset of cooler weather and snow in the high country brings a large number of elk into the area, as they head toward lower elevation winter range. They’re also drawn to Mammoth by the abundance of green grass in lawns and public areas planted during the historic period when the United States Army administered the park.
Several large bulls with impressive antlers venture into Mammoth Hot Springs each fall to compete for the attention of cow elk during mating season. The aggressive behavior of these animals brings with it a threat to people and property. Visitors viewing elk frequently get too close for their own safety. Several vehicles are damaged by elk every year, and on occasion people who are charged by bulls are injured.
A dedicated group of park staff and volunteers can be seen patrolling the Mammoth area, reminding visitors to stay at least 25 yards away from the animals. Those who fail to abide by this requirement not only put themselves in danger, they may also be subject to a citation and fine.
To remind visitors of the need for caution when around elk and other wild animals, the fall edition of the park’s official newspaper, "Yellowstone Today", which is handed out to visitors at entrance stations, features the elk safety issue. The park has also produced a brief elk safety video which is being shown at the Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs. The video will soon be posted to the park’s official web site at http://www.nps.gov/yell/whatsnew.htm.
Park regulations require people to stay at least 25 yards away from most animals and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves at all times. Visitors desiring a closer look at animals should use binoculars, spotting scope, or the zoom lens on their still or video camera.