Watch These Elk Ramming Cars at Yellowstone, and Showing Their True Size

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: November 10, 2022
© Agnieszka Bacal/
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Key Points

  • Elk can be aggressive and are known to attack humans and cars.
  • Elk should be avoided if possible.
  • Elk can and will attack if they feel threatened. This behavior is heightened during certain seasons.

The magnificent elk is one of the largest land-based animals in North America and the individuals in this footage were filmed at the amazing Yellowstone National Park. It is always a privilege to be able to get close to these amazing animals but you need to beware of their power and treat them with respect.

As is clear from this video, elk have the ability to cause a lot of damage to humans and vehicles and it is not wise to make them angry!

Rutting Season for Elk

The video here was shot during the rutting season and that is a big deal if you are an elk! It is the time of year when you find a mate and get to pass on your genes to the next generation which is, after all, the most important thing for any species.

Bull (male) elk behave differently during rutting season. They are competing for mating rights with harems of up to 20 females (cows). Rivals are intimidated in a number of ways and many are on display in this footage.

At the start, we see the bull elk bugling – this is the high-pitched screeching sound that is quite alarming at first. Bugling is very loud and piercing and can reach 4000 Hz although it can also be as low as 150 Hz. Elk bugle by blowing air from the opening between their vocal folds and directing it out through the nostrils.

A large bull North American elk standing in an open meadow
A large bull elk.

©Tony Campbell/

What we don’t see here is the practice of digging holes to pee in and then rolling around in that pee so that they have a strong smell to attract the females. Yes, that is true!

However, what we do see is the males intimidating rivals with antler displays and wrestling. As the bulls attack the cars and trucks, they are essentially ‘showing off’ to the females that they are strong enough to defend them and protect them.  That is what a female elk is looking for in a mate.

Humans and Elk

Humans and elk have a close relationship. The visitors to the park are clearly fascinated by their behavior and some people may be taking it a bit far by antagonizing the elk. However, they end up paying the price for this with some dented bodywork! Elk are powerful animals and can weigh up to 1,300 pounds and they can run at up to 40mph. Males can even jump 8 feet vertically in the air!

If you are not inside a strong vehicle, their antlers can cause serious injuries. They are made from bone and grow up to an inch a day, controlled by testosterone levels in the body. Elk are a hunting game species and their antlers are used for artwork and furniture. Currently, the elk population is healthy and they are not endangered so these males must be doing a great job!

Is it Normal for Elks to Ram Vehicles?

During rut or mating season, elks can turn extremely aggressive. They’ve been known to charge humans, cars, dogs, and anything else that may pose any type of threat.

It is recommended to stay at least 50 yards away from any elk because they can become highly unpredictable, especially during certain seasons.

Although, ramming or attacking cars isn’t a normal, everyday activity for elk, it does happen and it is best to avoid contact with these wild, yet majestic creatures.

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The Featured Image

elk running
© Agnieszka Bacal/

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

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