As you know, when it comes to wild animals – whether in the zoo or out in the open – we’re told to never get too close. Otherwise something like this happens: A photographer, James York, got extremely close and personal with a young bull elk in the Cataloochee Valley of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. What seemed at first to be natural curiosity, turned into an aggressive head-butting confrontation. The event, which was captured on video, went viral last week
In this case, however, York actually kept a good distance from the animal. It was the elk that approached him, sniffing his gear at first. But then the animal became aggressive and violently head-butted York with its antlers. York, however, stayed put.
“My first thoughts were, ‘wow, he’s getting pretty damn close here,’” York told the photographer who shot the video. “But I’ve been up close before without incident. I hoped being still and passive would see him pass on. When he lowered his antlers to me, I wanted to keep my vitals protected and my head down. I felt that standing up would provoke him more and leave me more vulnerable to goring.” Luckily for York, he eventually walked away without incident.
Unfortunately for the elk, it has since been put down by park rangers after the incident, PetaPixel reports. According to a park spokeswoman, the elk had already been showing aggression toward humans in that area because of people feeding it food – prior to its encounter with York – and this is the first time it has ever had to put down an elk.
York expressed sorrow that the elk had to die and wished the video had never been made public, but the park assured York that he did nothing wrong, and that the elk was already a danger to people as it “could not be retrained to be fearful of humans.” Still, York feels somewhat responsible and truly heartbroken.