Each September and October, thousands of visitors are drawn to Estes Park to watch herds of elk gather in the valley for their mating season, or “rut.” With this popular activity comes the responsibility for everyone to be safe and respect these majestic animals. During the rut, the male “bull” elk are irritable, aggressive and extremely dangerous to onlookers who get too close.
The elk calving season takes place in April and May of each year. During this time, female elk, or cows, become irritable and highly protective of their young calves. Though they may look harmless, like the bull elk during the rut, cows are extremely dangerous during calving season. Marked calving areas should be avoided. Caution should be exercised at all times during calving season.
“Every day our dispatch center receives numerous calls for police officers to respond to elk issues around Town, and the vast majority of issues are caused by people,” commented Estes Park Police Chief Wes Kufeld. He explained that the most common reports to dispatch are people getting too close to the elk and “elk jams,” caused when drivers park their vehicles in the way of traffic in order to watch the elk. Kufeld continued, “Safety should be first on the minds of elk-viewers, so they can have a great experience.”
The Police Department provides the following tips to visitors for safe elk viewing:
· Elk are wild animals which must be observed from a safe distance to avoid injury or death. If an animal is carefully watching you and appears “jumpy” when you move, you are too close.
· Keep pets secured on a leash and do not allow them to bark at, lunge at, or chase wildlife.
· Never block traffic. Move your vehicle to a safe place completely off the roadway to watch elk.
· Do not imitate an elk call, or bugle, when elk are irritable during the rut. This can endanger you and the elk.
· Elk know no boundaries, but people do. Respect private property when viewing wildlife.
The Estes Park Police Department does enforce wildlife laws including laws against feeding or harassing wildlife, or allowing one’s pet to harass wildlife.
A woman is challenged by a cow elk along the Lake Estes Trail. Residents and visitors alike are reminded to be aware of wildlife at all times and to observe safely from a distance.