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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