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Stay away from the elk: National Park Service warns about aggressive mating season

While elk may seem docile, this is a heated time of year for the large animals. Park service officials ask the public to keep their distance.

GRAND CANYON VILLAGE, Ariz. — Elk may look docile, but these giants are anything but gentle. As mating season starts, elk are expected to get aggressive, so the National Park Service has a warning: stay away.

"Bull elk are venturing into the [Grand Canyon] village to make acquaintance of the ladies," Grand Canyon NPS warned on Twitter, "This is a heated time of year -- mating season -- and bull elk can be very aggressive, with powerful, heavy antlers. Please keep your distance."

Elk are the largest member of the deer family in Grand Canyon National Park. Although they appear calm, elk are still wild animals and can be dangerous.

Elk bulls (males) can weigh up to 700 pounds, and have sharp hooves and antlers that they're not afraid to use.

Rutting season starts in August and runs until early winter. During this time, bulls compete for the attention of females, and will often venture into territory that they would otherwise avoid. They may try to kick you or chase you off if they feel threatened.

Grand Canyon National Park asks that people keep their distance -- at least 100 feet from all elk. If you come into an area with an aggressive elk that is approaching you, back away slowly.

Female elk rarely abandon their calves, but you may not see them nearby. If you spot a seemingly unattended baby elk, just leave it alone.

Remember, it's illegal to approach or feed wildlife in Grand Canyon National Park. Getting up in their space may stress them out. Appreciate them from a distance to protect both them, and yourself. After all, you're not winning a fight with an elk.

To learn more about safely viewing wildlife, visit nps.gov/grca/learn.

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