​​​2 Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem
Episode 9: Wildlife Safety  
8 June 2018
The recent spate of injuries in Yellowstone Park highlights the need to be aware of your surroundings around the big mammals of this ecosystem.

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JENNY>> Welcome to Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, sponsored by the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. Now here’s your host, Gary Robson:

LES>> What do we have from the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary for today?

GARY>> We’re actually going to take what was going to be today’s topic, Turkey Vultures, push them to next week , and talk about safety.

LES>> Okay.

GARY>> Two people in the last three days have been hospitalized because they were kicked by elk in Yellowstone Park.

LES>> It is one of my news stories that I have on for today. It’s quite interesting that both in the same area.

GARY>> They’re not sure: it could even have been the same elk!

LES>> Yes. They’re not sure.

GARY>> This time of year, they have calves to protect. Little-known fact: More people are injured or hospitalized by bison, elk, and moose than by all of the predators. They look big and slow and tame. They’re not!

LES>> No, they’re fast. And furious. Kind of like the movie, you know?

GARY>> The Fast and the Furious was actually about bison. Nobody knows that.

[Les laughing]

GARY>> I’ve watched young bull bison leap a barbed-wire fence. They can run in excess of 40 miles an hour. You do not want to do as four different people did last year: walk up to a bison, turn your back on it, take a selfie, and end up in the hospital.

LES>> Definitely don’t want to do that.

GARY>> With the elk right now, they’re keeping their babies in the tall grass. They want the little ones to be safe where they can’t be seen. This connects also to “If you care, leave them there.” If you happen to find a baby deer, baby elk, mama probably just wandered away to get some food and will be back. A female white-tailed deer’s probably not going to cause a whole lot of damage, but they can kick! An elk can kill you.

LES>> Yes. It’s a big as a horse, really.

GARY>> Yes, they are.

LES>> And I’m thinking: they’re saying “kicked in the head and torso,” so they can kick above your knees to your waist, your head, that’s a good-sized kick.

GARY>> And in the case of the second — the most recent — incident of the woman being attacked by the elk because it feared for its little one, they will rear up on their back legs and lash out with their front feet. That’s how they can get you in the face.

LES>> I wondering if it was kind of a back feet or front feet…

GARY>> They’ll do the spin-and-kick, they’ll do the rear up and lash out with the front feet as well. They’re dangerous from all four directions!

LES>> Well, that’s a very interesting story, because I haven’t heard about elk in the park kicking anybody for years. Then two times in the last three days.

GARY>> Yes, and in that area — the Mammoth Hot Springs area — there’s a very large herd of elk that just hangs out and looks placid and peaceful and calm and they’ll lay down between the cabins. As you’re walking around in there, be careful. The worst thing you can do is surprise them, just like with any other wild animal.
Generally, if you’re making noise, that bear is going to run away and hide before it comes and confronts you. Same thing’s going to be true of the elk. Make noise. Make sure it knows you’re coming. As you’re walking around between those cabins, in an area that’s got a large elk population like Mammoth does, don’t be quiet; don’t be sneaky.

LES>> Instead of the bear bells, you’re going to have to have elk bells here pretty soon.

GARY>> Elk bells! There we go. They’re kind of like reindeer bells.

LES>> There we go!

[Elk bugling]

JENNY>> Thanks for joining us for Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, sponsored by the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge, Montana. This podcast updates every Friday on iTunes, YellowstoneEcosystem.com, and the Sanctuary’s website, YellowstoneWildlifeSanctuary.org.

Thanks to our recording partners at FM99: the Mountain, where you can hear this show live every Wednesday at 8:22 a.m.

I’m your announcer, Jenny Van Ooyen, and I hope you’ll join me next week for another episode of Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem!    

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