“Unprecedented” third elk attack in Estes Park

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Visitors to Estes Park on Saturday, October 23, 2021, were able to see a herd of elk at very close quarters.

Early Friday morning, a woman walking her dog near the western end of Lake Estes became the third person in just over a week to have a violent encounter with one of the town’s iconic elk.

According to a press release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the woman had her dog on leash when she startled a cow elk from about 20 yards away. The victim tried to hide behind a tree but the elk knocked her down and trampled her. The woman’s injuries were serious enough to need medical treatment.

Friday’s incident comes days after a cow elk charged and stomped a 4-year-old boy at a playground less than a mile away. His family was able to scare off the elk and the boy was treated at the hospital and released that evening. Officials used bean bag rounds to force the elk away from the park but had closed the playground and parts of Estes Lake Trail as a precaution.

On May 30, an 8-year-old girl riding her bike in a residential area was charged and trampled by an elk. The girl was also treated at the hospital and released.

In all three cases, elk calves were found in the area afterward.

“Cow elk with young calves are known to be aggressive, however we’ve never seen a year like this,” said Jason Duetsch, CPW Area Wildlife Manager, in a statement. “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.”

CPW is warning Estes Park residents and visitors to the town and Rocky Mountain National Park to be extra vigilant around elk until calving season ends in the next few weeks.

“While it is a natural reaction for cow elk to be very defensive during calving season, it is not often they hurt someone,” said Duetsch.

CPW asks people to respect elk-related closures of trails and parks and never to disturb elk calves or other young wildlife. However, in all three attacks, the victims were quite a distance from the animals that attacked them.