We had just arrived at the condo we’d rented for a week in Estes Park and were chatting with the older woman in the unit next to ours. Several elk were roaming the area around our new little home away from home including this huge bull. Elk begin the rut in September and we knew from a prior visit how thrilling it is to encounter these magnificent animals almost anywhere in the Estes Park area. So to see one in the parking space behind our condo, well, let’s just say it was pretty amazing.
The bull was surrounded by several females and this guy was certainly protective of his ‘girls’. They were approximately 20-30 feet away from where we stood unloading our car. The male started toward me. Instinctively ( and foolishly!) I raised my camera to take yet another photograph but when he came a little faster, huffing and snorting in a manner indicating his apparent displeasure in our proximity, I moved around to the other side of our vehicle.
It happened just so fast. The whole episode felt surreal. There she was, our neighbor – who we had met just fifteen minutes earlier – lying face down on the pavement next to the driver’s side front tire with Mr. Elk standing over her. His head was down, his massive rack lowered as if ready to strike again if she presented any additional threat to his harem.
Not likely, as she was bleeding profusely from above her right eye and under her chin. Her shirt was soaked in blood. My husband raised his arms, yelled and hit the hood of the car to get the elk to run off. Eventually, the bull tired of the game and turned around, calmly walking away and back into the woods.
I grabbed some napkins from the glove compartment and Bill went next door to retrieve her husband. We helped the woman up and then they left for the ER. Her injuries required stitches in both places and she also suffered a jawline fracture. She could have been blinded or killed and was extremely fortunate the elk had not injured her more seriously.
There are signs located throughout Rocky Mountain National Park advising visitors to maintain a distance of at least two bus lengths when encountering elk. Duly noted, RMNP. Duly noted!