Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Elk Charge!

And a Sunday run.....

After enjoying a great run at Emerald Lake, followed by another awesome run at the inaugral Crazy Soles Nipika Trail Race, I decided I needed more, more, MORE!!

With that in mind, I opened the back door and set out on my run and on to the trails that connect right from my backyard. I waved to one of my neighbors who was in his yard gardening and gave pats to his dog. Not even five minutes out the back door, I saw a large female elk on the trail so I detoured into the forest to avoid her. I was bushwacking through a boggy, mosquitoe infested section only minutes in to my run and bitching to myself about unintentionally getting very wet feet. Frickin' elk, I thought....frickin' wet feet!

My train of thought was interrupted, when I heard some crashing through the bushes and saw, very much to my surprise, that the elk had followed me. She was stalking me. I had never seen an elk do this before and she was walking quickly and with purpose. I looked up ahead at the forest, mentally picking out the larget tree and decided to make a break for it. I needed to get myself to some place safer than the shoe soaking bog! When I broke into a sprint for the forest, she charged. Hooves crashing, trees breaking, earth thundering. Charge. As I ran, I was also screaming, "Nooooo! Go Away!" This was all I could come up with in crisis. But I was shouting at her, loudly and it wasn't making any difference. I made it to the forest, but the first spot I picked didn't make me feel so secure, so I did a little tree slalom trying to find a better spot and she still kept coming! My adrenalin and heart rate were out of control and I was sprinting and slaloming though the trees with a nimbleness I never knew I had. Good Thing I Am A Runner, I kept thinking to myself. As well as, This Is Frickin' Crazy.
I had one very random funny thought amongst the brief thoughts of my immediate demise and death-by-stomping-bitch-elk and that was "Damn, I am going to scratches all over my arms and mosquitoe bites all over me and I won't be so pretty wearing my strapless dress at the wedding tonight!!" Go figure. The weird irrational thoughts that go through your mind at times of stress and fear. I Can't Believe This Is Happening was another thought that kept repeating itself in my brain.
I managed to make it to a thick cluster of three trees, after retreating to the best of my ability and being charged three times. There, I remained with heart pounding and elk stomping just out of my reach. We even did a little tree dance and a few circles around my "safety trees". She was pissed. She kept rearing up and snorting and pawing the air. Bitch.
It took me about 5 minutes to get my breathing and my brain under control and then I started to look around to examine my options, but there just weren't any! There was a nice trail behind me where maybe I could make a break, but where and why? She was faster and bigger and angry with me. I had been shouting loudly this entire time, I had been hoping the neighbors might hear me to come investigate. Finally, I remembered that I had Bear Spray with me! Through the excitement and fear and chaos, I had forgotten about my bear spray which I always run with, attached within easy reach on my hydration pack. And after a 10 minute stand-off, pinned behind my little grove of trees, I realized I did in fact have a solution! The elk was not going anywhere. And I could not go anywhere. So I got out the spray, took off the safety, checked out the wind, aimed and shot. Straight in her face. The effect was immediate and very effective. She ran blindly through the woods for a short distance and then pawed frantically at her face. I felt terrible, but knew I had no choice. I turned around and sprinted down the clear trail, looking over my shoulder the entire time.
During all of this, I did realize that she must have a calf in the area for her to be so defensive and aggresive. So, while not being typical elk behaviour, this was predictable behaviour for an elk with a newborn calf in the woods. This time of year, they drop their babies and they just sort of hide them in quiet parts of the forest to nurse and feed their newborns. I think when I first saw her and retreated into the woods, I went the wrong way. While I was retreating from her, I probably almost tripped on her newborn calf hidden in the woods! She in return, lost her mind and was being defensive for all the right reasons. Still, it was a no brainer and I had to use the spray to get out of there safely.
So, now 15 minutes in to my "run" and cranked on adrenalin, I continued for a solid hour and a half at a very fast tempo. I think I sprinted up Sulphur Mountain. I was certainly sore enough the next day! I called the Park Wardens office when I got home, to tell them about my incident and they issued an "alert" for the area.
On a sidebar on elk related subjects....a funny story.

The evening before, relaxing in my front living room we were watching the "Elkvision". Having no television in the house, sometimes we sit in the front living room and enjoy the view out the front window or the "Elkvision". Well, last night we had a great show! There was a lone male elk, with his still-growing-fuzzy-cute-little antlers which was grazing all night on the front lawn. He has been around all week. He was becoming such a fixture, that we thought that he deserved a name as he was a Local. We decided to call him "Mittens" just like you'd name your cute fuzzy kitty-cat. Anyhow, that's it. Mittens is still around, but I haven't seen any signs of his bitch....

Elkvision in Banff

Kluane Drive - Out the front window


Anonymous said...

Exciting story. I've put a link to it on my site Digital Banff.

Mike said...

I'm glad you made it out in one piece Leslie. I can only imagine you sprinting up Sulphur in record time after that :)
It's good to know that bear spray will work on elk too in a worst case scenario.

Deanna Stoppler said...

Jeez, that's rough. She'll be fine, though, with the bear spray. It's probably like when we get soap in our eyes. Thank goodness it got you out alive! If only she knew what a sweet girl you are, she would have introduced you to her calf!

On a funnier note, check out this blog (the streakers post). Cracks me up. http://garyrobbins.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

quick thinking Leslie.
I wonder if a bear-banger would have worked?

Anonymous said...

Oh Leslie.
Even though i am in Germany you still manage to make me laugh over your stories!
I am glad you didn't get hurt by the elk!
Was it already Anna (Collins for that matter) and stues wedding?

I guess I should call SOON!

Oh and i have to say hi from dad as well. he still thinks about coming over for 3 days to hike up cascade with Keith

Journey to a Centum said...

Holy Elk Steaks Batman!

OK, first I'm so glad you didn't get stomped into little Leslie pieces on the ground. I'm all hyped up on adrenaline after just reading your story! Nice that you had your wits about you to finally remember the bear spray. Your only other real alternative would have been to go MAD MONKEY on the bitch.

Whew! I mean sheeeeit! I think I may have terminated the run and gone for a cold beerski to allow myself to process the whole event.

I guess I should stop leaving the bear spray on my cabinet at home. Thanks for reminding us that when you run in the great outdoors you will encounter wildlife along the way.

Yikes Yikes Yikes

Backofpack said...

Maybe Mittens is hanging out because it's his girlfriend hiding in the woods and chasing you. He wants to be near her, but her hormones are raging right now, so he's scared. He figures he'll hang out with you because you've shared his experience of a Mommy Elk gone berserk-o!

And, you know what else I thought? If it had been a bear, would you have thought of the bear spray in time? I want you to run with the thought "bear-spray, bear-spray, bear-spray" keeping time to your footsteps. That way, you won't forget. (No need to thank me for my mothering behavior, it comes naturally)

Phil said...

Hey Leslie, Glad to see you dragged Keith out on the trails at Nipika - Is he hooked on running yet? It's funny how we think that elk, deer and moose are more of a distraction and annoyance because they stand 'in our way' during our runs; We often forget that they are still very wild and can turn on us in an instant. Even more of a reason to carry bear spray!

Meghan said...


Wowow! So glad you are alright. You did the right thing; she should have recovered from the bear spray within an hour or so. I'll bet you're right about you passing right by her baby, though. People are being charged around here all the time, but nothing bad has happened yet. Problem is, the cows come into the developed area to calve because it's protection from predators. Probably the same thing is happening there, too. Thanks for telling your story and, again, I'm glad you're fine!


holly said...

Good grief Leslie, that is totally bonkers. Thank goodness you are so diligent with carrying bear spray! Maybe you should get a leash for Mittens and bring him around to protect you?

Leslie said...

Hi Mike, Deanna and Ian! Phew! Nothing like a little excitement in one's day! I did ponder going home, but why waste that adrenaline rush??

Bear spray is nasty beyond words and very effective. As well as blinding you, it makes your whole respiratory system freak-out. You cough, your throat burns, you can't speak. I can't imagine that Bear bangers would have done a darn thing: she wasn't responding to noise! She was fixated and would have stayed there all afternoon!

Hello lovely German Anna!
Yes, it was the OTHER lovely British Anna's wedding day. Fun was had!
Hugs to you and your dad!

Mmmmm, elk steaks. I'd be a lousy vegetarian.
I think you have gone Mad Monkey. You're speakin' some crazy monkey lingo, but Monkey speak does tend to scare 'em off....hmmmm.

Holly and Michelle-
I saw Mittens with a boner the other day and that was even scarier than his she-bitch!!

Hi! Hope you enjoyed your day, you speedy, speedster.

Frickin' elk! Love 'em when they are on Elkvision, hate 'em when they are going Mad Monkey.

'tis the season so....
Carry that spray and go take a practice shot with it (with the wind, o.k??)

CoyoteGirl said...

OMG! Leslie, this story had me riveted!

That had to have been super scary at the time but you obviously handled it like a trouper...now you have an awesome story to tell!

I love Elkvision. I wish we had it here. The closest I get are my own cats and the local squirrels.

Laura H said...

OMIGAWD!!! That had me on the edge of my seat. Elkvision, however, sounds really cool. We just get birds, cats and squirrels. I did see an eagle being harassed by a crow the other day while enjoying the one little ray of sun we've had in the last month (don't ask a PNW'er how the weather is...)

Anonymous said...

I just read this because did google search. I was out with horse and dogs yesterday and was charged/stalked by 13 elk! It was surreal. I thought they were docile, I was wrong. I went by after they left and got caught in field because they came back! Only way through was around the area they were congregating. I walked my horse and dogs and they started coming towards us. My dogs were barking and I was yelling to get back. Then Miss Nicky (my mare) decided enough was enough and she got all upset and kind of charged/snorted towards large elk that was coming to screw with us. THe elk got the message and backed off and we skidadled by. I was in total shock! I had no idea!!!

Melissa B in Eugene, Oregon