Young Elk Decides He Does Not Like this Photographer

The telephoto lens has certainly helped to mitigate some of the dangers inherent in wildlife photography, but the craft is still widely considered to be a risky business—requiring photographers to brave the elements and stalk animals like mountain lions who may suddenly disappear into the underbrush to stalk the photographer.

In this video, a young male elk bullies a photographer named James York in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN, reminding us all that wildlife photography can be just that—wild:

The footage was captured by Vince Camiolo, one of several photographers drawn to Cataloochee Valley at sunrise one October morning to photograph the elk. At first, the elk just seemed curious about the York’s camera, Camiolo recounted in the video caption, but the young bull’s curiosity quickly turned to aggression as he sought out a sparring partner.

“I quickly switched the camera to video and let it roll (much of the time wondering when I should seriously consider intervening),” said Camiolo.

elk rut charge bull wildlife photography great smoky mountains national park

“My first thoughts were, “Wow, he’s getting pretty —- close here,” said York.

While many have questioned why he didn’t simply stand up and scare the elk away, York has said that he was simply following his instincts to protect himself and his vital organs, hoping that the elk would lose interest (Via Petapixel).

“I’ve been up close before without incident. I hoped being still and passive would see him pass on,” York said. “I felt that standing up would provoke him more and leave me more vulnerable to goring… I was relieved to see the Ranger coming.”

Weighing more than black bears (500-700 pounds) and being nearly as tall as good-sized pickup trucks, elk do have a reputation of being dangerous. Both males and females will charge when they feel threatened or challenged. Males have even been known to charge vehicles.

This young male elk mistook York for a sparring partner, but at least York managed to get a few good shots out of it and has found a way to laugh about the frightening experience.

“I’ve joked with my friends that at least he took me for a buck and not a cow!”

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10 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    I would love to see the pics that the guy took right up close

  2. Saula Lawal says:

    Everything looks stagemanaged as far as l’m concerned

  3. Andre says:

    Bullying? The young Elk is just trying to play with him

  4. Aussie chick says:

    Personally I am appalled that the video was taken and no one intervened. There is a car in the background that at any time could have beeped the horn and drove the elk away. Ok, maybe the photographer should not have put himself in that situation, but it could have easily ended with an ambulance ride to emergency had an antler had some force in a soft spot……but not to worry…….we caught it on camera!!!!!!!!! When the white car came along, how easy was it to blow the horn and startle the elk away. It is so sad that we think it is ok to film a train wreck in action when sometimes it could be avoided by intervention.

  5. kerry says:

    Then you do not know your wildlife! The guy was lucky he did not get seriously hurt. Great video, though!

  6. Les says:

    A true photographer. I bet he got some great shots. Always keep the camera close. He did the right thing by being submissive. Great video.

  7. Aussie chick says:

    Kerry, that elk has now been destroyed. Not solely due to this incident, but doubtlessly it contributed. Yes, I know my wildlife. You don’t feed them, and if there is the ability to intervene appropriately in the case of a close encounter then you do so. There was intervention, the car and it’s horn, my point was, how sad that there was other vehicles there that watched when they could have intervened so much earlier. Alls well that ends well, but for a different placement of his antler, the story could have ended so differently. But hey, what a great photo that would have made!!!!

    Photo journalism is great, but I think as a member of society we have a duty first to look out for our fellow man rather than document their demise, IF it is appropriate to do so.

  8. Bridget E says:

    James York stopped laughing soon after he learned that his interference with nature succeeded in getting the poor animal killed. This was a terrible thing to happen.

  9. Chris Fedderson says:

    York is an idiot! The elk was not bullying, but York WAS antagonizing the wildlife. York should have been arrested and charged a humongous fine. And his photos should have been confiscated [not COPIED, but confiscated] and used for whatever “Don’t Do This You Idiot Tourist”-type videos the authorities might make.

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