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Elk vs Photographer Update: Elk Put down After Altercation With Photographer

By Anthony Thurston on November 17th 2013

In a sad turn of events it has come to our attention that the young bull elk involved in the altercation with a wildlife photographer that we posted about several days ago has been put down by park rangers.

According to a statement to NBC park officials said that the Elk “could not be re-trained to be fearful of humans.” So it was determined that the animal needed to be put down to protect other visitors to the park from its aggressive behavior.

The photographer involved in the viral video regarding this Elk has issues a statement in which he expresses deep sadness at the loss of this animals life. He goes on to express a wish that the video had never gone viral so that the animal might still be alive today.

I love and respect animals and that’s why I photograph them and don’t hunt them. I am deeply hurt by the loss of such a beautiful creature that in its own way bonded with me. I looked forward to watching him grow to a mature bull as the years passed. I’m truly heartbroken to know he is gone.


Wildlife Safety Is Not Just About You, Its for the Animals Protection as Well

I am saddened to hear that it had to come to this for the young bull Elk, I can’t say that I am all too surprised though. Even though the photographer in this case was able to get away without any serious injury it could easily have gone another direction. Just watching the video again and I have seen several spots where the man was lucky to not have been stabbed by those antlers.

This just underscores why it is important to follow all posted rules when visiting national parks or any place where you may have interaction with wild animals. These rules are in place for the animals protection just as much as your protection – more so in their case really.


When you feed or interact with wild animals, especially ones that get big like an Elk, you put them at risk of situations like this. Unfortunately this young Elk had started to associate humans with food (due to being fed by humans at the park), so when the photographer had no food for him the Elk became aggressive. Had this been a full grown bull elk the photographer likely could have been seriously injured.

So next time you are out in the wild and feel the urge to feed that cute animal remember this cautionary tale and don’t do it. You may be dooming the animal to a fate similar to this Elk…

What are your thoughts on this story? Do you think that the Elk was dangerous and deserved to be put down or do you think that the Park Rangers overreacted in this case? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

[via Petapixel via NBC]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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    […] [Rewind: Elk Put Down After Altercation With Photographer] […]

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  3. Alex

    A common problem with hand-raising a male deer (or antelope) is that it grows up lacking a healthy fear of humans. This often results in the animal attacking others, including its own “parent.” Humans in parks who hand feed the wild animals end up creating similar problems, where the park animals become major “pests” due to their socialization with humans.

    I would not blame the photographer, and I would not blame the elk. I would blame humans’ striking lack of patience in understanding insidious systems at work.

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  4. Jim

    I am highly suspicious that the elk had to be euthanized (shot). I regularly go to the spot where the video was taken and have seen many elk walk up to photographers on the edge of the road. Also the little white sign on the side of the road says that you must maintain distance between the animals and yourself. I believe that it is at least 50′ and may be 50 yards. I have had to move to keep my distance and once had a cow come up and lick the mirror on my car. I believe that this was done to prove a point by the GSMNP and discourage people from coming to the Cataloochee valley

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  5. Al

    Why not tanquilize the bull and relocate to deep in the wild ?

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  6. Ralph

    Let’s dissect this a bit. It appears that the photographer pulled his vehicle over to take the picture. I assume his vehicle is the white one driving to his pile of equipment to scare the elk away at the end of the video. Why was it so darned important for him to get out of the safety of his vehicle to get the shot. A whopping 10 ft. away. When the elk came over, he could have very easily just rolled up the window and been done with it had he stayed inside the vehicle.

    But no, he gets out of the vehicle and WALKS TOWARD THE ELK…Are you nuts??? From looking at the pictures presented I think he was driving by, saw the elk and decided to get out of the vehicle because the elk was either just on the edge of the treeline or already on the grass.

    I would hope that he receives a fine or at least the expense that his idiocy caused.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Actually, he was sitting on the side of the road and the Elk came to him. He was not the only photographer on the side of the road like that (although you cant see that in the video). This was not his fault, blame the idiots that fed the elk in the first place.

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  7. Lovell D’souza

    Very unfortunate that this happened. But then you can’t really blame the rangers again. They were just doing their job.

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  8. darkbird

    Very sad. I don’t see why they had to kill it.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Had they left it be and it became aggressive towards another park visitor and seriously injured them or eve killed them then they would have to explain why nothing was done the first time this animal was aggressive.

      Its sad, and it sucks, but I totally understand the decision.

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    • Matt

      It’s an elk being an elk in the wild… No reason to euthanize this animal. You should know as a semi-intelligent human being that stepping outside the confines of your world into the animal kingdom-there will always be unknown risks.

      It’s not like it was a damn tiger that would just maul you for sport. It was a curious animal that lived in an environment filled with humans. When those worlds come together the answer is euthanasia I guess. You couldn’t possibly ask people to be more cautious or take responsibility for their actions, that’s WORK.

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