Wild encounter between photographer and young bull elk

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Anyone who’s ever driven through a national park in Canada has likely seen a similar sight—an ungulate grazing on the side of the road with a line of cars parked beside it.

Drivers and passengers lean out the window, gawking in wonder, often taking photos. Sometimes, though, one of these citizens gets out of his or her car, approaches too close to said animal, and, well, bad things happen. 

Which brings me to this video, taken in October but recently posted to Youtube. According to the introduction, a photographer was taking pictures of elk “from a safe and respectful distance” in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee when a young bull became curious in his camera gear. 

The way the photographer reacted could be described as, at best, logic-defying. Here’s his take on the situation:

“My first thoughts were ‘wow, he’s getting pretty damn close here.’ But I’ve been up close before without incident. I hoped being still and passive would see him pass on. When he lowered his antlers to me, I wanted to keep my vitals protected and my head down. I felt that standing up would provoke him more and leave me more vulnerable to goring. I think that while protecting myself with my head down, having my head down was a signal that I was rutting with him. I was concerned at first, but when he started rearing back and lunging at me later on, I got scared and pissed off. That’s when I wagged my finger at him to cut that shit out. I was relieved to see the Ranger coming.”

While it’s easy to criticize his behaviour as stupid, as many Youtube commenters have, it’s not really cut-and-dry. And you’ve got to give him props for keeping cool under pressure.

One thing I can say for certain is that I wouldn’t want any of the slack-jawed observers as backup in a fight.  

Now, while many of us would never be in his shoes in the first place, what would you have done if you were?