Colorado tourist learns the hard way that elk don't care how small your dog is – it might still be a wolf

 Cow elk standing in grassy area beside tree.
Cow elk standing in grassy area beside tree.

A tourist visiting Colorado's Front Range received a swift lesson in wildlife safety recently after carrying his small dog right up to a cow elk for a closer look. Elk tend to prefer close encounters with people and will usually leave an area rather than confront someone, but they tend to react particularly badly around dogs, which they see as a threat regardless of size.

This particular elk reacted with a quick bluff charge to drive the man and his pet away, but not all incidents end so easily. Cow elk protecting calves have been known to chase after dog-walkers, and even knock them down, causing injuries. Last year, a couple in Colorado were chased into their home by a defensive cow elk, barely managing to get their dogs inside in time.

A video of the most recent close call (which you can see below) was shared online this week by Wild Aware, which campaigns for respectful co-existence with Colorado's wildlife.

"Reminder – no matter the size of your dog, elk perceive the dog as a threat to her young," the organization wrote on Facebook. "Please go around or avoid area (Evergreen Lake section along Upper Bear Creek Road)."

Wild Aware is now running a campaign called Wildlife Watch in the Evergreen Lake area, aiming to provide education and guidance to help visitors enjoy the popular tourist spot without disturbing the animals that call it home.

During the campaign, volunteers will roll a wagon full of teaching materials along a lakeside path, including leaflets and binoculars so people can enjoy watching elk and other animals from a safe and respectful distance.

"Besides the crowd-pleasing elk, visitors can enjoy sightings of osprey, bald eagles, great blue herons, and other species," says Wild Aware.

You can learn more about Wildlife Watch and dates during the spring and fall seasons on Wild Aware's website.