Each September and October, thousands of visitors are drawn to Estes Park to watch herds of elk gather in the valley for their mating season or “rut.” With this popular activity comes the responsibility for everyone to be safe and respect these majestic animals. During the rut, the male “bull” elk are irritable, aggressive and extremely dangerous to onlookers who get too close. Estes Park Police Chief Wes Kufeld commented, “It's time to ensure you are being safe around wildlife, especially those that can hurt you, like elk. Watch from a safe distance, respect their space, give them plenty of room to move and don't block their paths. As individuals, we each have a responsibility to ensure our own safety.”
Chief Kufeld explained that the Estes Park Emergency Communications Center receives numerous calls about elk issues daily. The most common reports are people getting too close to the elk and “elk jams,” caused when drivers park their vehicles in the way of traffic in order to watch the elk. Do not block traffic when viewing elk from your vehicle – park completely off the roadway.
The Police Department provides the following reminders for safe elk viewing:
• Elk are wild animals and can cause serious injuries or death.
• Keep a safe distance. If you cause the animal to move, you are too close. This is important to consider even in vehicles, as bull elk will charge a car during the rut.
• Keep pets secure. Estes Park municipal code requires pets to be on a leash at all times.
• Elk know no boundaries. Respect private property when viewing.
• Keep these tips in mind every spring during elk calving season, when female “cows” become protective and
can be extremely aggressive.
The Estes Park Police Department and the Police Auxiliary periodically assist with wildlife education and may provide “safe viewing” tip cards when they are on the scene of a wildlife viewing opportunity. The Police Department enforces wildlife laws including laws against feeding or harassing wildlife, or allowing one’s pet to harass wildlife.