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On Sunday, 51-year-old Charlene Triplett was attacked by a cow elk near the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel at Yellowstone National Park.
Triplett, an off-duty hotel employee, was kicked repeatedly in the legs, head, torso and back by an elk protecting a nearby calf.
According to a statement issued by Yellowstone National Park, it is unknown whether Triplett was aware of her proximity to the calf that was “roughly 20 feet away and hidden by [cars].”
“Anecdotally, elk injuries are not common,” a Yellowstone National Park spokesperson told The Points Guy, “although elk charging people seems to happen each year.”
The spokesperson explained that the national park does not track incidents of this nature, and that not all instances are formally reported.
“Animals in Yellowstone are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be. When an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space.”
Travelers are advised to stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from all other animals, including bison and elk. “If need be,” the spokesperson continued, “turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.”
In the statement, Yellowstone urged park visitors to be cautious around elk, particularly during calving season. In a 2016 Facebook announcement, for example, the park service warned that elk can hide their calves in “unexpected places” — busy parking lots included.
“We start seeing elk calves show up in late May,” the spokesperson explained to TPG. “And [calving season] goes on throughout mid to late-June.”
If visiting a national park is part of your summer travel plans, consider this a gentle reminder to stay a safe distance away from the wildlife — and to be on the lookout for innocent-looking elk calves hidden nearby.
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