Years ago we went on vacation in the Canadian Rockies. What a wonderful trip! Barry had his camera ready at all times and captured so many photos of wildlife.
In Jasper BC, elk wondered around on the lawn of the town courthouse and into yards, along the streets and roads. We were warned that it was dangerous to approach an elk at that particular time of the year.
We were told that only a few weeks earlier a tourist and his children were walking about the town when they saw an elk nearby. The father sent his little girl up to the elk to stand beside him while her picture was taken. Suddenly, the bull elk turned on the child and attacked her. She was killed before anyone could help her. That was all it took for us to keep our distance from elk and most of the wild animals we saw.
After a day of sight-seeing and photo-taking, we settled into a cabin we had rented earlier. Once inside, Barry and my brother-in-law grabbed beers and we decided to go outside and sit in the evening cool. But, when the door was opened, we jumped back inside. The bull elk was making himself at home right in front of our door. He grazed a bit and then laid down not five feet from the door to our cabin.
He had us trapped! Several times Stu or Barry opened the door and tried to shoo him away. But he was not going anywhere. He threw his big head up and headed right for our door as if to tell us so.
We didn't know what we were going to do. There was no phone in the cabin and this was before we all carried cell phones. Darkness began to fall. We could see the office lights across the way. How were we going to get anything to eat? We could not get to our car. Frustrated, we knew we just had to wait until the big creature decided to leave. We hoped he would not spend the night in our yard.
We did not know who called and got us help, but from nowhere a truck pulled up and a man in a ranger uniform got out.
"How is this one man going to chase off the bull elk?" I asked. But suddenly I had my answer.
First, the ranger pulled out a hand gun and shot it into the air. The elk was on his feet by now, but not going anywhere. From the back of the pickup truck, the ranger pulled a hockey stick with plastic streamers hanging off it. Lots of streamers in all colors. He held that hockey stick high in front of him and began to walk forward and shake it at the elk.
That did it. You would have thought a monster had appeared. The big bull elk took off like he was running a race and disappeared into the woods.
We scrambled out of the cabin asking questions of the ranger. "Why did he run from you?" "How did you do that?" "What is that thing?" That was when he explained about the hockey stick and streamers.
"They are afraid of anything taller than they are," he said. "So I hold the hockey stick way up in front of me. He thinks I am bigger than he is, and he takes off."
What a laugh we had, but we were very grateful for the ranger who told us the folks at the office had called him. They saw that we were trapped. Throughout our days in the Canadian Rockies we saw elk everywhere, but we did not get up close and personal with any of them.
Just as the bison in Yellowstone have hurt people recently, any wild animal can hurt you. How many people have been harmed by deer that seem so docile and gentle, or bear that, if left alone, would go on about her business, but if she feels her cubs are in danger she will attack. Don't bother them and usually they won't bother you.
Humans don't respect animals and their space. When we visited Yellowstone, I fell in love with the bison that seemed to own the roadways. What an interesting creature to watch. But so many tourists want that photo that shows how close they got to the wild beast, like it is a sign of bravery. But it is really a sign of stupidity, I think.
I'll share a poem I wrote about the Bison at Yellowstone.
Autumn at Yellowstone
Is it the fire or maybe just September
that paints the park in shades of brown?
A herd of bold, shaggy bison crop
amber prairie grass waving below
gigantic silver Rocky peaks.
Do the small calves by their side face
certain death from winter’s blizzards?
I reach from my car window,
touch the sloughing coat of one
historic survivor marching like a tired soldier
down the highway’s center line.
In the distance hobbling on three legs,
no longer able to keep up ―