• Outdoors Outdoors

Bystander records 'child endangerment' encounter with elk at national park: 'What a clueless mother'

"There are plenty of really big windows that you can use to take pictures of those beautiful creatures."

"There are plenty of really big windows that you can use to take pictures of those beautiful creatures."

Photo Credit: iStock

A sleeping bull elk may look peaceful, but he's still a wild animal best viewed from a distance — which is why a video of a mother and her child getting close to one sparked anger online.

The Instagram account Tourons of National Parks (@touronsofnationalparks) posted the video, which shows a mother standing and her young child squatting just feet away from an enormous antlered elk. The mother is holding a camera and barely looking at her child, putting both of them at serious risk.

"That child is in so much danger," one person wrote angrily. "But what a clueless mother. Wow."

The mother "should be charged with child endangerment," another agreed.

The video was taken in Estes Park, Colorado, where the official governance is to keep at least 75 feet away from elk, according to the National Park Service. 

Ignoring posted safety guidelines is a classic characteristic of touron behavior — "touron" being a mix of "tourist" and "moron" — that has been seen at national parks around the world.

"I live in Estes and see this all the time," one commenter lamented.

"How incredibly unsafe," another wrote angrily. "I wouldn't even let my dog near a sleeping giant, much less a child." 

Others agreed. "I'm a former zookeeper … That child would be gored if she ran playfully at them," one warned. "And the stress they put on these poor animals."

Indeed, getting a great photo isn't just dangerous for the person in front of the camera — it's potentially fatal for the animal. If an animal feels threatened by an encroaching human and attacks them, that animal is almost always euthanized. 

Sometimes, even well-intentioned human interaction — like physically handling a stray bison calf, as the Casper Star-Tribune reported — can result in death, as human scents can cause herds to reject their young.

According to the Humane Society of the U.S., millions of people visit national parks each year to see wildlife — the irony is hard to miss.

While it's tempting to try for a close encounter, it's vital to remember that respecting our natural world means observing wildlife from a safe distance. By using designated viewing areas and adhering to park guidelines, we can ensure the safety of both animals and people. This will preserve these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire.

"What gets me is there are plenty of really big windows that you can use to take pictures of those beautiful creatures," one person said. "And you don't endanger yourself, or your child."

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