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Elk charges, knocks cyclist off bike in Canmore

“The elk did not make contact with the cyclist, only scared him.”
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An elk lies down in the snow in Canmore. RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – An aggressive elk charged and knocked a cyclist off his bike near Rundle Drive In Canmore earlier this week, prompting warnings to give the wild and powerful animals plenty of space.

On Tuesday (April 9), Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Services received a report of an aggressive elk at Rundle Drive by the Bow River.

“The elk charged at a cyclist and knocked him off his bike,” said Laura Vilchis Sanchez, communications advisor for Alberta Public Safety and Emergency Services in an email.

“The elk did not make contact with the cyclist, only scared him.”

Bow Valley WildSmart educators say elk should not be mistaken for tame animals just because they’re in town, on golf courses, trails or playing fields, and can be dangerous at any time of year.

Gareth Thomson, executive director of Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley which oversees WildSmart, said even though elk calving season is still a way out, elk need to be given space any time of the year.

“This is a good heads-up for us all. It’s not like you can hang your hat on any calendar date or any one month. It’s more general than that,” he said.

“When we’re dealing with elk, in general, we have to remember they’re wild and powerful animals regardless of how tolerant they may be of our behaviour. They need to be treated with respect.”

While elk can be dangerous during any season, female elk can be particularly aggressive during calving season, which typically gets underway mid-May and runs until early June.

Some signs of an agitated elk include staring with flattened ears and raised rump hair, curled lips, grinding teeth, and charging and kicking.

Thomson said people should turn around or back away slowly when they come across elk to give the animals space.

“Turning around is where the smart money lies,” he said.

“If the elk is looking at you or seems alert or nervous, or possibly has its ears folded back, that’s a great sign that you’re too close and we need to pay attention to that elk language that they’re communicating as hard as they can.”

To avoid an elk encounter, people should be aware of their surroundings and stay at least 30 metres away from elk. It is also mandatory to have dogs on leash in Canmore.

If approached by an elk, Alberta Fish and Wildlife recommends people act dominant by raising their arms or a big object; maintain eye contact; never turn their back and run; if possible, climb a tree or keep a large object between them and the elk; and back away slowly out of the area.

If knocked down or fallen, it is recommended people get up and try to find cover, but do not play dead.

“We as human beings need to bring a healthy dose of humility and respect with us if we want to keep the wildlife safe and if we want to keep ourselves safe,” said Thomson.

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