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Video captures outrageously close encounter between elk and tourist at Estes Park in Colorado: 'It's hard to watch'

According to the National Park Service, elk can charge or kick when they feel in danger.

Elk and tourist at Estes Park in Colorado

Photo Credit: @touronsofyellowstone / Instagram

One tourist at Estes Park in Colorado almost got a painful reminder that encountering wildlife is not like in animated movies, and in turn, provided viewers with more tips to be responsible when connecting with nature.

In February, the Instagram account Tourons of Yellowstone (@touronsofyellowstone) shared a video of a visitor who turned her back to an elk in an apparent attempt to snag a photo with the creature. 

The elk then lowered its antlers and jabbed at the back of her head, nearly making contact with her eyes when she turned around as several onlookers warned, "Watch out!"

"You better back up," one person exclaimed. 

"It's hard to watch," another said. 

According to the National Park Service, elk can charge or kick when they feel they are in danger. 

Male elk, or bulls, can weigh more than 1,000 pounds and can also be more aggressive during the elk rut, which is when they compete for mates. The rut starts in mid-September and lasts for roughly a month. It is also one of the busiest times at Estes Park, thanks in part to the Elk Fest.  

"The most important [thing] is to give them their space," Elena Patton wrote for the Estes Park Visitor Guide last month. "Keep at least 75 feet between you and the elk, about the length of two school buses. If the elk notice you, you're too close!"

The park's official website also cautions against imitating the noises the bulls are making, known as bugling, noting it can cause a hazardous situation for both the person and the animal. And if you have pets, help ensure their safety by keeping them on a leash when they're outside.  

Elk play an important role in the balance of the ecosystem, but Estes Park once saw its elk disappear thanks to hunting. They were reintroduced to the environment in the early 1900s

"Take a picture if you must, but all cameras zoom," one commenter wrote on the Instagram post.

"It's all fun and games until you get your eyes poked out," said another.

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