(ABC News)–A woman visiting Yellowstone National Park was charged by an elk on Friday after inching closer to the wild animal, camera extended in front of her, in hopes of getting a better photo.
National Park visitation is at record highs, Jeffrey Olson, a spokesman for the National Park Service, told ABC News. But he said that some people hoping for a great photo can “endanger themselves and endanger wildlife.”
“People generally are just so excited to be in a park, and the next cool thing is if they can get a picture of wildlife, and then the third thing is ‘Can I get a picture of me and the wildlife?'” he said.
This confrontation with an elk follows recent incident in which a baby bison was euthanized after tourists put it in the back of their vehicle and took photos that went viral.
The National Park Service advises visitors to stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and 25 yards away from all other wildlife.
Olson warned that touching wild animals is also off-limits; it’s not just dangerous but also illegal.
“If you’re going to do a selfie, you have to use the widest lens you can,” Olson added.
“There is just kind of an ignorant danger, and then there is a whole other level of the really self-obsessed selfie shooters — and what they do is try to close the distance between them and the animal,” he said. He added that this is the main way people endanger themselves and animals.
“We would much rather be doing interpretive programs and answering questions about that mountain, that lake,” Olson said, “than writing tickets and hauling people to the hospital.”
Jody Tibbitts, a guide at Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris in Yellowstone National Park, can be heard in the video of the elk, advising the woman that she is getting too close to the wild animal.
“As entertaining as the video is, it is more of an educational video,” Tibbitts told ABC News. “Even the most gentle- [and] meek-looking animals are going to be dangerous.”
“That elk had just given birth to a calf,” she added. “I think the only reason she attacked was that she had a calf and she was protecting her young.”
Tibbitts has worked in Yellowstone since 1991 and said she believes the rise of digital photography and social media has contributed to an increase in dangerous photo-op incidents.
“Selfies are the problem,” she said. “It is really the access to high quality digital photography in everyone’s pocket. People are getting more brazen and more selfish, and for these animals, this is their home.”