Man Who Chased Bull Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park Was 'Unwise': Official

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife official has urged visitors not to interact with local wildlife after images emerged of a man chasing an adult male elk in the Rocky Mountain National Park on Thursday.

The unidentified man was spotted following the bull elk along a trail off a parking lot near the park's Forest Canyon overlook, despite calls from bystanders to leave the animal alone, Denver's KDVR news station reported.

Jason Clay, a public information officer at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said chasing a bull elk off is an "unwise move," and urged visitors to steer clear of the wildlife, which can be unpredictable and dangerous.

"You've got to try to keep some common sense with you and understand that wild animals can act unpredictably and they can hurt you," Clay said. "Anything that wanders by it could think of as a challenger and it could run and attack you."

Bystander Vickie Ziebert shared details of the incident on Facebook. She and other visitors "were all in just absolute disbelief," she said, according to KDVR. Ziebert said the man followed the elk for around 50 yards despite others shouting at him to come back.

"The lack of remorse or care—I think that's what really sent me over the edge," Ziebert said.

Clay said the park tries to educate visitors on the dangers wildlife can pose, but that the threat of bull elks is especially high now during the rut season. The rut season peaks between mid-September and until mid-October, according to the Colorado National Park Trips website.

During this window, the bull elk "become more aggressive during this season, charging at each other and locking antlers as they battle over dominant status and mating rights," the website explained.

The park tweeted out a list of tips for visitors on Saturday. "To keep them—and you—safe, don't approach them," the park said of all wildlife. "It is not adorable to feed wild animals," the post continued. "You could alter their natural behaviors, exposing them to predators or even euthenasia (sic)."

"Keep your furry buddies leashed when enjoying dog-friendly trails, and pack out their waste," the post added, declaring: "Keep wildlife wild."

Clay said visitors should always ensure they are a safe distance from wildlife. He suggested using the "rule of thumb" method—i.e. Holding your thumb up over the animal at a distance. If the thumb covers the animal, he said, you are far enough away.

He added that no one should ever try and feed the animals or pose for photos with them, KDVR reported.

elk, colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, wildlife
This file photo taken on January 1, 2005, shows an immature elk foraging on grass in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images/Getty