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An Elk Calf Goes To Preschool

The calf watched the children play.

The calf watched the children play.

By: Kris Hazelton

We’re right in the middle of elk calving season here in the Estes Valley and this week, a mama elk gave birth to her calf right next to the play yard fence at Mountain Top Preschool.

As parents were dropping of their kids, the protective mom let them all know that they were not welcome near her precious newborn baby.

Teachers and staff at the school were very aware and warned anyone coming to the school of the elk and everyone was cautious around the calf and cow but the birth also offered a special learning opportunity for the children at the preschool.

The baby stayed right next to the fence, actually peeking in and watching the children play while mama grazed and kept watch. Eventually, the pair moved on. You can watch a video of the event on our website at

We must all remember at this time of year, with the births of the elk calves and the proximity of the elk population to people, we must be careful and try to prevent any potentially harmful human/elk encounters.

On Wednesday, wildlife biologist and photographer Tom Mussel was observing a cow elk and her calf from a safe distance. When he turned to leave, he realized the cow was chasing him to get him away from her calf.

The elk calf just outside the fenced play area at the preschool.

The elk calf just outside the fenced play area at the preschool.

Unfortunately, he stumbled and the cow tried to hit him with her front hooves. She refused to let him leave and everytime he tried to get up, she ran back and stood over him. Luckily, he had a camera and a unipod with him with which he used to fend off the cow elk. Tom was eventually able to get away with a few scrapes. A very scary experience.

Rick Spowart, Wildlife Manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife gives us some helpful tips in case you happen to run into a situation such as this.

Rick stated “In the next few weeks, there are going to be many new elk calves born in and around town. It’s our responsibility to be aware and not get too close to the baby or the mother.” The cows have calves all over town and you just never know when you’re going to happen to walk by a mother and calf.

If you encounter a protective mother, the best thing to do, is to back away quickly. Don’t turn your back on her, as you won’t know if she is charging you. Make yourself look large. If you have a jacket, raise it above your head, and swing it around, make yourself look formidable. Chances are the mother will be glad you’re leaving their space.

If you happen to be walking or jogging with a dog, the elk will be even more on alert and aggressive towards your dog. She will see your pet as a predator to her baby. The best thing to do in this case is to let your dog go for the time, and save yourself. The elk will most likely chase off your dog and you can retrieve him a bit further down the trail.

If you’re taking a walk on the lake trail, and happen to find the trail is closed, heed the warning and walk the other way.

Educating ourselves and our visitors about wildlife issues is the right thing to do, especially around calving time and during the fall rut. Remember, there’s a reason it’s called wildlife.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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