While most visitor interactions with wildlife in national parks seem to revolve around bears, officials in Olympic National Park are urging visitors to the Hoh Rain Forest to be cautious about the resident Roosevelt elk.
According to park Superintendent Karen Gustin, some of the elk are beginning to associate visitors with handouts, and that could easily lead to problems.
“The Roosevelt elk is one of Olympic’s most beautiful and iconic animals," said the superintendent. “At the same time, elk pose a very real hazard to people who approach too closely – to avoid injury and to protect the animals, visitors should remain at least 100 feet from elk and other park wildlife.”
Several Roosevelt elk in the Hoh Rain Forest are showing signs of becoming “habituated,” or abnormally comfortable with, visitors, according to park officials.
"This creates a dangerous situation for both visitors and elk. People who approach elk place themselves at risk of harm, as elk can aggressively charge people and cause injury with hooves or antlers. In turn, the elks’ safety is jeopardized, as biologists must consider serious action in the event of human injury," they say.
In addition to heightened warnings to Hoh area visitors, rangers are launching a concentrated program to discourage interactions between elk and humans. The Hoh Rain Forest nature trails may close temporarily when elk are using these areas. Rangers will employ a variety of techniques to drive elk from the heavily used visitor areas.
Visitors should always maintain a safe distance when viewing park wildlife – a minimum of 100 feet is recommended by park officials.