Man hurt by elk in Estes Park

Posted at 6:50 PM, Sep 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-28 20:50:43-04

A man was hurt after getting too close to some elk Sunday in Estes Park.

Marci Bowden, who took photos of the Sunday afternoon incident with her cell phone, said she saw an elk put its head down and head toward the man in orange. He had just started to back away, she said, and other witnesses were yelling for him to get out of the area.

"The elk, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. The man was very blatantly in his space," said Bowden.

A passing car blocked her view of the moment when he was hit, but Bowden said he had spots of blood on his lower back when she could see him again. She said that was when she called 911.

The man was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, according to Kate Rusch, a spokesperson for Estes Park. 

He has since been treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released from the hospital, Rusch said.

The man was hurt just off Highway 34, near the Estes Park visitors center, Rusch said.

It was a busy weekend for tourists with a free day at Rocky Mountain National Park and the Autumn Gold Festival happening in town.

When 7NEWS Reporter Jaclyn Allen showed the photos to Colorado Parks and Wildlife Spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill, she was not surprised.

"That’s terrible. I mean this is the kind of thing we see every year," said Churchill. "It's not appropriate. It's actually pretty stupid."

Churchill said CPAW is investigating, but the elk will probably not be put down, and the man may face charges of Harassing Wildlife.

"Don’t do this kind of behavior," she said. "It’s unfair to the animals, and it’s not being responsible to our wildlife."

However, this kind of behavior is not uncommon in Estes Park, where elk often cause traffic jams and police sometimes herd them on Segways.

"We've had incidents, honestly, where people have tried to put their kids on elk’s backs to take pictures, pet them, selfies — very dangerous things to do," said Commander Eric Rose with the Estes Park Police Department.

Rose remembers a few years back when a woman had to be taken by helicopter to the hospital after she accidentally got between a female elk and her calf.

This weekend, thousands will be in town for the annual Elk Fest, and Rose said the goring serves as an important reminder.

"Elk were here long before we were," said Rose. "It's great to have them here, but you have to respect them.
This time of year, the normally docile animals are in the rut -- mating season -- and can be more defensive and aggressive.

Rose said volunteer auxiliary officers will hand out educational cards to visitors this weekend, and they will try to educate people and remind them that even though the elk seem tame because they come so close, they are wild animals.

7NEWS spotted three bulls and at least a dozen cows and calves just feet from the sidewalk near the festival on Saturday.

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