Bull elk destroyed after attack at Banff rec grounds

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Parks Canada has been forced to destroy a bull elk that attacked a jogger at the Banff recreation grounds, while another bull may be killed for ongoing aggressive behaviour inside town boundaries.

It’s the fall rut and mature bull elk can become extremely aggressive as they begin rounding up female elk into harems in a fierce competition to breed throughout September and October.

Parks Canada officials say they work hard to keep elk out of town, but there were two recent occasions when bull elk attacked – one at the recreation grounds and the other at the Middle Springs playground.

Officials say no one was injured in those incidents, but warn people to be alert and take necessary precautions to avoid elk encounters during the rut, which lasts until about mid-October.

“This fall we’ve had a couple of bulls causing challenges in the town area and there’s been some aggressive interactions with people,” said Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager for Banff National Park.

“One of them we’ve destroyed and the other one we put a collar on and are monitoring, but it looks like he’s still in town and causing problems, so he might be a candidate for removal.”

On Aug. 23 at 9 p.m., a bull elk charged a jogger at the Banff recreation grounds. The jogger grabbed the elk by the antlers and tried to push it away, but the elk pursued him from behind until the jogger could get to cover.

In another incident, an adult female was noticed crouched in the Middle Springs playground with an elk hitting her backpack from behind with its antlers. It happened on Aug. 25 at 5:15 p.m., and lasted a few moments before she could run away.

“No one was injured in those two incidents, but contact was made,” said Hunt. “That’s a red flag for us and an early warning indicator.”

While one aggressive bull elk has been destroyed, a decision on whether to kill the second one had not been made at the time Outlook went to press.

Hunt said the animal had been darted and collared last week so it could be monitored.

“He was back in town over the weekend and causing more problems, being aggressive and trying to defend space around his group of cows,” said Hunt.

A third bull elk is also being closely watched. “One moved out near the golf course and is with his females and he hasn’t been causing any more problems,” said Hunt.

Banff’s elk management strategy allows an annual elk cull to manage the population. The strategy has historically allowed for up to 20 elk to be culled, notably the more habituated townsite elk, known as townies.

Hunt said the destruction of the one elk, and perhaps a second one, fits within the elk management plan.

“Some years the cull is zero and some years it might be up to 10 or 12 animals over the course of winter in terms of managing herd size,” he said.

Parks Canada provides the following tips on how to avoid and handle elk encounters: Travel in a group; watch for elk at all times and detour around them; if possible, walk around elk on the high side of a slope or uphill; stay back at least 30 metres; keep dogs on a leash at all times and carry pepper spray, a walking stick or an umbrella as protection.

If an elk gets too close, act dominant. Raise your arms or any big object – jacket or umbrella – to make yourself appear larger, maintain eye contact, and never turn your back or run. Climb a tree or keep an object, like a tree or large rock, between you and the elk. Back slowly out of the area.

Parks Canada asks that all incidents be reported to 403-762-1470.

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Rocky Mountain Outlook