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Unprovoked elk attacks keep happening in Colorado. Here's how to avoid it

Experts say as the human population increases, so do the chances of unknowingly crossing paths with wildlife.
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Posted at 5:12 PM, Jun 08, 2024

EVERGREEN, Colo. — Take a trip to Evergreen Lake and you’ll see the signs all over the place, issuing warnings of potentially aggressive cow elk in the area.

One in particular has become the talk of the town. Locals have nicknamed her ‘Feisty’.

“She has been coming out, and she has chased cars and a lot of people with dogs, and she has actually attacked several dogs and injured a couple of dogs, broken a leg, this sort of thing,” said Christie Greene, president and founder of Wild Aware.

Wild Aware was created with the mission of promoting coexistence between wildlife and people, a mission that’s become even more important in the past few weeks as reports of elk attacks keep being documented across the state.

Group volunteers make their rounds around the Evergreen Lake area, notifying visitors of the elk and reminding them to keep their distance during calving season.

Wild Aware is working with Denver Mountain Parks, Evergreen Parks and Rec and Evergreen Audubon in their outreach and patrol.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, conflicts are common with cow elk and cow moose if their young are nearby. Many of those conflicts involve pets, which the animals view as a threat.

The latest elk attacks across the state have all been unprovoked. In the past eight days, three elk attacks occurred in Estes Park — two of them involving children.

The wildlife agency called the number of attacks this year "unprecedented."

“Cow elk with young calves are known to be aggressive. However, we’ve never seen a year like this,” said Jason Duetsch, CPW area wildlife manager, in a statement. “All three attacks have been unprovoked and unfortunate accidents. We have no clear evidence to suggest these attacks were from the same animal, which underscores how uncommon the elk behavior has been.”

Near Colorado Springs, CPW said a deer stomped on a person’s dogs and charged at a pregnant woman on Friday evening.

Greene notes these types of incidents are becoming more frequent due to increased cohabitation. As the human population increases, so do the chances of unknowingly crossing paths with wildlife.

Oftentimes, a calf might be around and you may not know it. That's when its mother can become defensive and attack.

The bottom line: if you live near cow elk, stay alert and stay aware of your surroundings.

“They're really fun to watch, but you really have to give them space and respect,” said Greene.

CPW recommends keeping your pets on a leash at all times outdoors and canvassing the area as you go. The also advises teaching children to avoid wildlife and keep a close eye on them when they are outdoors.



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