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cow elk attack in Estes Park

CPW Investigates Second Cow Elk Attack in Estes Park: Community Urged to Exercise Caution

ESTES PARK, COLORADO  In the past week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has investigated two separate incidents of cow elk attacking young children in Estes Park, raising concerns among residents and visitors.

On Thursday, an 8-year-old girl was attacked while riding her bike in a neighborhood. The cow elk charged from about 60 yards away and stomped on her multiple times. Fortunately, the girl was quickly taken to a nearby hospital, treated, and released the same day. CPW officers found the aggressive cow elk with a young calf nearby. After hazing the elk with non-lethal bean bag rounds, the officers monitored the area to prevent further incidents. The calf was later transported to the CPW Health Lab for care.

In a more recent incident on Monday, a 4-year-old boy was attacked at a playground near Stanley Park. Unknown to the families present, two elk calves were hidden nearby. The cow elk charged and stomped on the boy before a family member managed to scare the elk away. The boy was also treated at a hospital and released later that day. Following the incident, CPW officers hazed multiple cow elk from the area and closed the playground and parts of the Lake Estes Loop trail indefinitely.

Jason Duetsch, Area Wildlife Manager for CPW, explained that cow elk become particularly defensive during calving season, which spans late spring to early summer. “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 and boy are recovering from their injuries and wish them continued healing.”

CPW has placed signs around Estes Park warning of aggressive elk behavior and urges the community to heed these warnings, especially in areas where elk are known to frequent.

Safety Tips for Avoiding Conflicts with Cow Elk

Here are some wildlife safety best practices to keep in mind when visiting the mountains and other places like Estes Park where Elk are common.

  1. Stay Alert: Be aware of your surroundings, especially during calving season (late spring to early summer).
  2. Respect Closures: Adhere to trail and park closures indicated by CPW signs.
  3. Keep Pets Leashed: Always keep pets on a leash to avoid provoking elk.
  4. Avoid Young Wildlife: Never approach or disturb calves or fawns, even if they appear to be alone. The mother is likely nearby.
  5. Maintain Distance: If you see a cow elk, maintain a safe distance and do not approach.
  6. Observe Behavior: If a cow elk appears agitated or begins to move towards you, slowly back away and leave the area.
  7. Use Deterrents: In case of an aggressive encounter, use noise or other non-lethal means to discourage the elk.

By following these tips, you can help ensure your safety and reduce the risk of conflicts with wildlife in Estes Park.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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