CPW: 8-year-old girl attacked by cow elk in Estes Park

CPW aggressive elk sign
Posted at 9:06 PM, May 31, 2024

ESTES PARK, Colo. — An 8-year-old girl was attacked by a cow elk in Estes Park Thursday afternoon, according to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

According to the agency, the girl was riding her bike in a neighborhood around 1 p.m. when a female elk started charging the girl from roughly 60 yards away. The elk caught up to the girl and stomped on her multiple times, according to CPW.

The girl was taken to the hospital and released later that day.

CPW said a wildlife officer found a cow elk and a young calf in the attack area. At that time, the elk became aggressive toward the officer, the agency said. The officer hazed the elk by firing a non-lethal bean bag round, and the animal's aggressive behavior dissipated, according to CPW.

The officer stayed for several hours to monitor the situation. They then returned to the area Friday to take the calf to the CPW Health Lab, where it will be cared for by veterinarians and wildlife specialists.

CPW aggressive elk sign

CPW said its officers will haze cow elk in the area "as necessary" to discourage interactions with neighbors. The agency has also placed signs warning of aggressive elk behavior in the area. CPW said pets should be on a leash at all times to avoid conflicts with cow elk.

“This is an unusual and unfortunate situation where a young girl was playing outside, far from the calf, and a cow elk became aggressive to protect her newborn,” said Jason Duetsch, area wildlife manager for CPW, in a statement. “While it is a natural reaction for cow elk to be very defensive during calving season, it is not often they hurt someone, especially a child. We’re happy the girl is recovering from her injuries and wish her continued healing.”

Calving season for the state's elk population lasts from late spring through early summer. Cow elk can display aggression towards people and pets during this time in order to protect their calves.

According to CPW, conflicts are common with cow elk and cow moose if their young are nearby. These conflicts increase once their young can stand and move around on their own, the agency said.

CPW urges Coloradans and visitors to leave young wildlife alone, especially during calving season.

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