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John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Elk on 09/17/2012 20:57:41 MDT Print View

When I was out on a solo trip last week, I encountered a large number of elk. I've often seen signs of elk, but this was my first time actually seeing them and I wasn't 100% sure what to do.

I'd heard bugling throughout the day, but my first sighting came just after I finished eating dinner. I was sitting against a tree with my dog and an elk came out of some trees less than 50 feet away. It didn't even notice us until my dog started whining (luckily she was leashed), at which point the massive creature bounded away.

As the sun started to go down, I started hearing more and more elk bugling. Walking back to my tent, I scared away another elk on accident. And right after the sun went down, the elk bugling became even more frequent and close. After listening to them all for awhile and hearing them get closer, I started to be able to hear them run around the forest, huff and snort, and kick around dirt with their hooves. At this point, I was getting a little concerned I might get run over in my tent or charged in my sleep. I finally got out of my tent and started making some noise and yelling. At first, the elk (whose forms I could vaguely make out in places) just stood there. After jingling my dog's collar though they all ran away. I had thought that my dog's and mine smell would be enough to dissuade them from coming near, but I guess not.

Within an hour though the elk were back and the bugling just as loud. So I scared them off again. This repeated for a few hours before things finally quieted down. The next day, I saw about 8 elk withing my first 10 minutes of being on the trail, another two elk a mile later, and then 4 more over the next 13 miles.

In these situations, what is the best action to take with elk? What would you have done? Was my concern of being run over in my tent valid? I was camped in a relatively flat, medium to low density pine forest. Was this just a bad camping spot? Elk are certainly amazing and giant creatures and I hope to see more of them, I just want to be more knowledgeable for my next set of encounters.

Pretty sure this is one or two elk footprints:

Here were two guys with antlers I managed to get a quick shot of:
(I circled the elk in red because they're kind of hard to see)

Edited by johnnyh88 on 09/17/2012 20:58:43 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Never heard of a problem on 09/17/2012 21:11:47 MDT Print View

I never heard of Elk running over a sleeping person. I'm pretty sure they'd know what it was. Your experience sounds like one I had with deer in VA. I was camped with four boys up on the AT and late at night I heard a snort which I quickly identified as a startled deer. I then heard them stomping their hooves before running away. This cycle of snorting, stomping and running was repeated several times. Apparently we were sleeping right on the deer's bedding ground and they kept coming back to see if we were gone!

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Never heard of a problem on 09/18/2012 07:31:55 MDT Print View

Yea, I'd never heard of a problem either but I thought I'd ask. Just like with your deer, it would make sense that I was probably in their bedding ground.

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Elk on 09/18/2012 08:13:32 MDT Print View

I doubt they'd ever hit you while sleeping, especially if you have a visible shelter, but a deer did run into me once. On a sidewalk next to a hotel on an island off the coast of Georgia. She was obviously stressed and panicked while running away from something and just ran right into the back of my arm. Scared me to death. I wasn't hurt and she was gone before I even realized what had happened, though.

And once while hiking I almost walked into a deer. Came around a switchback in fog and howling wind and he was only 2 feet from me. Strangely, he didn't run, just walked a few steps away and started munching on some leaves while I passed.

Weird stuff does happen, but I don't think it's worth worrying about unless the animal is getting obviously hostile towards you. Still, I was bushwacking recently to get a close up picture of a moose and I thought, "Gee this would be a really dumb way to die." You never know for sure with big wild animals, I suppose.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Re: Re: Elk on 09/18/2012 09:10:11 MDT Print View

Similar to a comment above, my first thinking after reading your account is that you managed to locate your camp in those particular elks' bedding area.

Or, possibly, their love nest.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Horny Elk on 09/18/2012 09:36:20 MDT Print View

Given that it is Fall, I'm thinking the elk may have been in their rut during which they are more concerned about finding each other (the bugling and milling about) than in avoiding you. In the Upper Midwest, deer get hit a lot by cars as the normally shy creatures come bounding out of the bushes as they cross the highways. This also fits in the way those elk weren't alert to you or your dog.

While some species (elephant in musth) get aggressive, I am unaware of that happening in deer. I never noticed it in mule deer in California up and I don't see it in moose here in Alaska (I do see mothers aggressively protecting claves, especially in early May when they are new-born). Similarily, these elk apparently responded by leaving once aware of you and your dog, so I'd mark this week on your calender and in the future make more noise when traveling and avoid game trails for campsites.

Joe L
(heyyou) - MLife

Locale: Cutting brush off of the Arizona Tr
normal behavior during the rut on 10/15/2012 22:02:00 MDT Print View

The bugling is the males sounding off during the rut. They can bugle all night long. Since you are not another elk, you are of no interest and no threat to them.

The elk use the same trails we do.

The most danger is being shot by an anxious hunter as you walk through a brushy area.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Elk on 10/15/2012 22:16:32 MDT Print View

Bull elk may threaten or charge if you and the dog get really close or get between them and a female. Most of the time, though, they'll run. I doubt they'd run over your tent unless you camped on a path. A few years back one spent the night bugling between my camp and the nearby lake. At first I was thrilled, but the 5th or 6th time he woke me out of a sound sleep, I started thinking seriously about elk stew for breakfast!

Moose? They can be downright dangerous! I'd rather meet a bear!

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Elk on 10/15/2012 22:24:34 MDT Print View

"The bugling is the males sounding off during the rut. They can bugle all night long. Since you are not another elk, you are of no interest and no threat to them"

Not true. Stay at least 30 m away.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Elk on 10/16/2012 07:36:59 MDT Print View

"Moose? They can be downright dangerous! I'd rather meet a bear!"

I'm with you, Mary. I've had a mother moose stalk me for 400 yards, across a shallow lake, through heavy deadfall, and get within 15' of me. She kicked the dirt, snorted and sprayed me with moose-spit, and generally let me know that I was her biggest problem. I've had a mother griz treat me with far more respect. I've come to hate seeing moose in the wild, as half the time I feel a bit threatened by their presence. They need a lot of space.

I also had 5-6 male elk charging past my tent once, in the middle of the night. One or two bumped into my tent guy lines, but no serious problems.

HElinTexas C
(Helintexas) - MLife
Elk on 10/16/2012 08:14:48 MDT Print View

A male elk in full rut can be dangerous. They literally are out of their minds. I have been told repeatedly by various rangers to stay away from them. In Yellowstone, they have been known to attack cars. My first visit to Yellowstone was during the elk rut. One of the males attacked a car several hours before I arrived. Elk normally are not animals you worry to much about danger wise.....but rut changes the situation. It is best to remove yourself from their vicinity when you encounter a male bugling.....that means a female is near and he desparately wants her. He might feel threatened by you and attack.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Elk on 10/16/2012 16:19:34 MDT Print View

Sounds like guys on heat outside a nightclub.
They attack each others, smash cars and just don't try to get in between them and a female...
elks like it

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: Elk on 10/17/2012 16:26:07 MDT Print View

attack video


Nationally, deaths caused by domestic elk are rare. A 51-year-old Vermont man was killed in September 2002 when his 700-pound bull elk gored him during fall rut.

Elk and deer attacks in the wild also are rare.

A deer killed a California man in September while the man worked in his garden.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Elk on 10/17/2012 18:35:58 MDT Print View

Thanks for the info/thoughts every one.

My main concern wasn't being attacked when awake, it was being accidentally run over in the middle of the night. It was certainly a night I was glad I set my tent up. I'm not sure if a sex-crazed male Elk would have noticed a person sleeping in a bivy sack.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Elks on 10/17/2012 20:09:45 MDT Print View

Kiwanis are more dangerous.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
hammock users might think about it ... on 10/18/2012 07:44:06 MDT Print View

I recall a few years ago doing a solo trip with a hammock rather than a tent. Heard a lot of Elk bugling, and walking not that far away. I thought it was kind of cool at the time.

Then when I went home I read up a bit more about buck Elk behavior when in rut. One article talked to people who live near forest, warning that such Elk like to spar with inanimate objects, such as "lawn furniture or hammocks".

Made me a bit less inclined to use a hammock in times when the Elk are feeling passionate about life. I do also recall a large deer or elk walking much too close for comfort when I was in a bivy sack once, but I would particularly like to avoid the epitaph "Died as an Elk Pinata whilst hammock camping".

In truth I have no idea what the odds are, but it's something I factor in now when selecting a solo shelter for a particular trip.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Re: Re: Elk on 10/18/2012 14:41:16 MDT Print View

spam...marking this thread in case it becomes another invisible thread

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Rutting Season on 10/23/2012 06:17:35 MDT Print View

Although I have been camping out west during elk rutting season, I have never experienced them being aggressive. Not saying it doesn't happen with any rutting animal. Goat, sheep, deer, ... can all get out of their minds

I mostly hike in the NY, CT, NJ area.

I have had buck deer threaten me during rutting season, but never attack, only walk towards me barking and then turning away. This usually happens in prime grazing areas and/or meadows.

I did see one young buck who got excited by a group of camping teenagers. The kids were all wearing bright wild outfits, some kind of outdoor rave, costume party or something.

The buck walked into the middle of the crowd waving his head around in a crazy, drunk, almost threatening fashion. The teenagers were almost able to touch him. He eventually walked away when the kids all tried to touch him at the same time.

It made me think of what could happen...

Peter Evans
Elk in rut on 02/17/2013 11:37:30 MST Print View

I lived in Jasper, Alberta for a year... when the Elk are in rut they are the biggest danger going. I only used my mountain bike that time of year, because it gave me a means of out running a charging bull. This is not merely something that could happen, it happened on nearly every ride. if you get within the sight or smell range of a bull in rut, it will charge you... guaranteed.

They mostly congregate in the valley bottoms during the rut, high country is much safer and more Elf-free.

// edit: Elk free.... lol

Edited by NLslacker on 02/17/2013 11:38:23 MST.

Sean Staplin
(mtnrat) - MLife

Locale: Southern Cdn Rockies
RE: Jasper on 03/04/2013 22:55:02 MST Print View

LOL. This thread definitely made me think of Jasper. Used to go with a few friends and watch the tourists and the elk. We would sit on the lawn and make odds on if an elk would charge. Never saw people run so fast.