Summer 2018 tourism in Yellowstone starts with two elk attacks.
An unknown stranger startles you while you are sleeping with your newborn baby. The result? Instinct fuels a strong reaction to protect and fight off the intruding threat. That’s exactly what has happened in multiple incidents this week in Yellowstone.
In a matter of three days, two separate incidents involving elk mothers protecting their young were reported. Furthermore, both attacks happened in the same location.
Attacks at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
Just below the north entrance of the park is the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The grassy area is a well-known, heavily visited location. And humans aren’t the only mammals that enjoy this space.
Elk congregate on these grassy knolls and lawns. The grass breaks the natural terrain of the rough landscape and offers the best food. Elk mothers, emaciated after a long winter and providing milk for newborn calves, feast on the rich green grass.
Humans often stand feet away, observing and taking photographs. The homepage image on the Mammoth Parks Hotel and Cabins website boasts a picture of this exact situation.
Sometimes, though, people unknowingly get too close for comfort for a mother elk.
The first attack occurred on Sunday, June 3. Las Vegas resident Charlene Triplett, who works in the park seasonally, was injured. A cow elk protecting a newborn took Triplett as a threat and unleash a flurry of kicks.
Severe injuries from the incident to Triplett’s head, torso, and back resulted in a flight to Eastern Idaho’s Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, for treatment.
The morning of Tuesday, June 5, the second attack occurred in the same vicinity. A Texan visitor to the park, Penny Behr, walked up on a mother elk with her calf. Behr didn’t know the elk was in the area, but the mother elk took no time eliminating the perceived threat even as Behr tried to retreat and give the animals space.
The elk landed kicks to Behr’s head and torso. Her injuries were less severe than Triplett’s, and she was taken to Livingston Memorial Hospital in Livingston, Mont., for treatment.
Yellowstone National Park is an American treasure. Visitors come from all corners of the world to watch nature.
Wild animals are abundant in Yellowstone, so give them the room they deserve. Especially a mother with a newborn — of any species.