Yellowstone Warns Visitors of Aggressive Bull Elks at the Start of Mating Season

The park advised visitors to stay at least 25 yards away from the elk.

male elk in Yellowstone National Park
Photo: Eye Ubiquitous/Getty

Even though national parks have become a perfect destination for a socially-distant adventure, Yellowstone National Park has advised visitors to keep a safe distance from more than just fellow park goers.

Starting in September, bull elks can become particularly aggressive during what is known as “rut” season where the animals bugle and show off their strength for potential female mates, the park explained.

The bulls will sometimes charge and battle each other, crashing their antlers together while wrestling. The fights rarely cause serious injury to the elk, but they can seriously harm a human who happens to be standing in the way.

“Elk run quickly and may change direction without warning,” the national park wrote on Instagram alongside a video of the elk in action. “Keep at least 25 yards from elk at all times. If an elk charges you, find shelter in your vehicle or behind a tall, sturdy barrier as quickly as possible. You are responsible for your own safety.”

The season lasts until about mid-October.

Visitors who are not careful could sustain serious injuries simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The park advised visitors to find shelter in a vehicle or behind a barrier if an elk charges at them.

The elk are most likely to be found in Yellowstone’s northern range, which includes Mammoth Hot Springs and Madison River

A visitor to Yellowstone was attacked by an elk in 2018, which caused severe injuries to her head, torso and back. Earlier this year, Yellowstone also reiterated a warning about staying at least 25 yards away from large animals, like bison, elk, and moose after a bison attacked a woman who got too close.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram or at

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