Home > Outdoor

‘Unprecedented’ String of Elk Attacks Near Rocky Mountain National Park Spurs Warnings

Over 8 days, two children and a woman were injured by elk mothers in Estes Park, Colo.
elk calves and mother elkThey may look cute, but cow elk don't need antlers to be dangerous, as shown in a string of recent attacks; (photo/Shutterstock)
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

Estes Park, a small town located at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, has experienced three attacks from the large mammals since May 30. The most recent incident occurred Friday morning, causing Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) officials to issue a renewed warning to residents and visitors.

The rapid succession of elk attacks is “unprecedented,” officials said. It’s the likely result of calving season, during which cow elk are more likely to charge and chase perceived threats to their newborns. This period typically lasts from late spring through early summer for elk and moose.

“Cow elk with young calves are known to be aggressive, however, we’ve never seen a year like this,” Jason Duetsch, CPW Area Wildlife Manager. “All three attacks have been unprovoked and unfortunate accidents. We have no clear evidence to suggest these attacks were from the same animal, which underscores how uncommon the elk behavior has been.”

3 Elk Attacks

Elk attacked three people in Estes Park over 8 days, according to Colorado officials. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Thursday, May 30: An 8-year-old girl was riding her bike through her family’s neighborhood at about 1 p.m. when a female elk charged her from 60 yards away. The elk stomped her multiple times, park officials said in the news release. She was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment and released later the same day. A wildlife officer later found the cow elk and her young calf. When the elk became aggressive, the officer fired a non-lethal bean bag round. “The elk’s aggressive behavior dissipated,” officials said. The officer then stayed on the scene to monitor the situation for several hours.
  • Monday, June 3: Just a few days later, a cow elk attacked a 4-year-old boy while at a playground at about 1:30 p.m. Families using the playground were unaware that two elk calves were hidden nearby, according to parks officials. That’s probably why another cow elk suddenly charged and stomped the boy several times. A family member scared off the animal and took the boy to the hospital. Officials treated and released him the same day. Once again, a CPW officer fired bean bag rounds to force the elk to leave the area. The attack resulted in the “indefinite” closure of the playground and parts of the Lake Estes Loop trail.
  • Friday, June 7: This time, a woman was walking her dog through town (on a leash) when she startled a cow elk about 20 yards away, officials said. She tried to run behind a tree, but the elk knocked her to the ground, stomping and kicking her multiple times. She’s seeking medical treatment. People later spotted the cow’s calf nearby. 
Elk heard in Rocky Mountain National Park
An elk herd crosses the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2022; (photo/Shutterstock)

Officials Urge Caution

Given that calving season is the common thread among the attacks, officials urge Colorado residents to be extra careful. They remind locals to leave young wildlife alone, use a leash with dogs, and “give elk a wide berth.”

But the risks of calving season aren’t restricted just to elk — or Estes Park.

On Saturday, a pregnant woman in Colorado Springs walked outside to find an aggressive female deer stomping her dogs in a fenced-in yard. When she tried to intervene, the deer charged her instead, according to a news release.

Her father tried to scare it away with non-lethal rubber buckshot. But the deer continued to attack her, so the father shot it to death using lethal rounds.

“Thankfully no one was hurt,” said Tim Kroening, CPW’s Area Wildlife Manager for the Pikes Peak region. “This incident serves as a reminder to watch for wildlife and keep a close eye on your children and pets.”

colorado moose indian peaks wilderness

Moose on the Loose: Colorado Parks & Wildlife Issues Warning After 6 Incidents

Grand County residents should exercise caution around local 'defensive' moose. In one incident, a dog died. In another, a man was injured. Read more…

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!