It was a brisk nippy day, and I walked along enjoying the cool air that nipped my cheeks. Suddenly I realized Riley had stopped in the road in front of me, and was staring very intently at something. I always pay attention to the dogs as I walk as I know they are the best alert system I have. I was slightly below her as we were climbing a hill, and I couldn't see her perspective. I continued walking, as she stood very still, and then I saw what she saw, ears... lots of ears! Oh, just deer, I thought, as they often graze in that field. However as I got closer, I realized these weren't deer, but were a herd of about 19-20 elk. I stopped then, and watched quietly with Riley. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and turned my camera on. Suddenly something must have spooked the herd and the stampede began. My heart was in my throat as my ears filled with the noise of the thundering hooves, stampeding in my direction! It all happened so fast that I barely had time to press the camera button to try to capture the action. I did wildly think in a short millisecond, what should I do if they come my direction, but it all happened so fast that I stood rooted in my spot.
As the girls thundered past me, no more than 20 yards away, I was close enough to feel the earth shake as they ran by me. Riley remained rooted in spot, as did I, in the middle of the road. Suddenly I saw what the stampede was all about... it was a bull elk chasing the gals. As he thundered up behind the girls, suddenly he became aware of me, and turned, stopped... and stared me down. I can tell you in that moment, as he and I locked gazes, that I knew I was putty in his hands. I couldn't move. I just quietly returned his gaze and moved the phone away from direct contact with his gaze to hopefully put him at ease, because I know that anything pointed in their direction feels like a threat, even a phone. Once I did that, he relaxed, turned, and went back to chasing the gals across the road.
At that point, Riley came back to me. It all lasted about 36 seconds, but it seemed much, much longer than that! Riley sat at my feet and we just watched them until they crossed the road, went down into a draw and back up into the mountains. When the world was quiet again, the only noise that I could hear was the pounding of my own heart!
One never knows when an unexpected encounter with wildlife will happen. We have been very prepared before to see wildlife, and have seen nary a thing. And then, in a few moments of time, I witnessed an event that my husband and son are really wishing they had gotten to see! We have seen elk many, many times. But never have I seen them stampede like this. So thankful that it all ended well, and that I had presence of mind to capture most of the event. Riley and I continued on our walk and I could see the path that the elk had taken before us, as Riley followed their tracks as we walked.
Here is the video below, and the quality is not great, as I was unprepared for this kind of action! The camera gets a little wobbly and then I move it away from the bull's direction as he stares me down.
How thankful I am that I got to see these magnificent creatures in action! As that bull stared at me, I realized how you can be frozen in an instant. I felt completely unable to move as we watched each other for what seemed longer than it was, and that image of him and I staring at each other will remain in my heart forever! I went back through the video, and realized that for a full 2 seconds we stared at each other. Long enough to make an impression, one that I will never forget!
The pictures that follow are taken from my video, and are not of the greatest quality, but you get a sense of my stare-down moment with this bull elk.
|You can see the tracks on the road that the elk left as they thundered across.|
|Riley smelling the tracks of the elk where they crossed into the draw and headed up into the mountains.|