Watch a Beautiful Elk Pee All Over Its Own Face in Yellowstone

Elk Calling
© Cornelius Doppes/

Written by Kirstin Harrington

Updated: October 19, 2023

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Key Points:
  • The act of an elk peeing on itself is not uncommon. The term to describe it is “self-anointing.”
  • Elk bulls will bugle when looking for a mate, but it can also be a warning to nearby bulls of danger.
  • Watch the unusual video below where an elk douses itself in urine, appearing to enjoy it!

America’s Yellowstone National Park is situated in the western part of the country, mainly in Wyoming’s northwest corner and spreading into Montana and Idaho. Most of Yellowstone’s land area is covered with lava flows and boulders from volcanic eruptions. There are hundreds of known species of mammals, fowl, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and even a few that are endangered or vulnerable. It’s a spectacle that must be seen.

With so much beauty surrounding visitors at Yellowstone National Park, the last thing they expected to see was caught on film by an onlooker. On September 20, 2021, the people visiting the beloved park spotted an elk relaxing near the parking lot. As he’s being filmed, the elk gets up, seemingly to leave the area. Instead, we see the elk start to pee … all over his face! As other drivers are angry about the hold-up, it’s somehow a mesmerizing sight to see. 

See the Surprising Video Footage Below!

What Onlookers Were Not Expecting From a Solitary Elk

Bull Elk bugling for does.

Bull elks bugle to attract mates while cows judge the vocalization to assess the bull’s mate-ability.

©Wesley Aston/

The elk lets out a noise comparable to a scream or whistle. A bull elk’s bugle may be recognized by non-hunters as well. There are several different tones to the sound, which start low and then turns into a scream. Bulls will bugle when they are looking for a mate during the rut. 

As a symbol of authority, the vocalization also acts as a warning to nearby bulls. Although you can’t estimate a bull’s size solely on his bugle, you may use it as a beacon to find him. Just like rush hour in the city, you can hear people become irritated at those who’ve stopped to watch the beautiful animal

Cows will pay attention to a bull’s bugling and assess its mate-ability. The cow is trying to figure out which bull has the highest probability of producing a huge calf that will survive. She learns crucial details about the bull via its speech, scent, and look.

Is This Normal Behavior?

American Elk in front of the Rocky Mountains

The act of an elk peeing on itself is called “self-anointing.”

©Tom Reichner/

Believe it or not, elk are known to pee on themselves! Bull elk enjoy dousing themselves in pee to entice the ladies. Pick-up lines don’t work in the wilderness and the main alternative is to wet yourself! Their distinctive fragrance, which draws cows, is caused by the urine soaking into their hair. The term for this practice is “self-anointing.”

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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