Photographer Shares Brutal Bull Elk Attack, Warns People Not to Get Too Close

Bull elk gores a cow
Photographer Joe Subolefsky shared this image of a bull elk fatally wounding a female elk.

A photographer has shared a public service announcement reminding his fellow shooters not to get too close to deer — especially this time of year.

Professional nature photographer Joe Subolefsky shared a harrowing video he filmed a few years ago in the Smoky Mountains which shows a sequence of images he shot of a bull elk charging a cow (female elk), with the cow dying as a result.

“We tell people to get back all the time and here’s the reason,” says Subolefsky in the video. “I guess one of his tines must have punctured her heart because she died. Full-grown cow, sad to see. People wonder why we tell them to get back all of the time, just crazy.”

Subolefsky tells PetaPixel that as someone who is out in the field almost every day, he constantly sees people crossing the line.

“Cell phone users are the worst but I also see photographers that obviously don’t understand animal behavior,” he says.

“It’s unfortunate because they are putting their life and also the animal’s life in danger. Their actions can also cause places to be closed to the public and then we all lose.”

Subolefsky wants to remind people to be safe but notes that many times he has received a “dirty look” for suggesting to somebody to get back.

“Unless you spend a ton of time afield with these animals and understand their body language most people are clueless that they are in danger,” he says.

“Fifty years afield and I still see something new or learn something every time I’m out there. Please pay attention and stay safe out there.”

Bad Time of Year to Cross a Bull Elk

As noted by Field & Stream, bull elk are notoriously cranky this time of year (rutting season) thanks to their hormonal bodies.

The incident of the cow being killed by the bull elk was shot in 2021 in North Carolina’s Cattalooche Valley and he explains that the male had been sparring with another male just before its murderous attack.

“When he got done with that fight, he walked over towards her, tried to mount her, and she just stumbled,” he tells Field & Stream,. “She wasn’t expecting it, and she wasn’t very receptive. He was so charged up coming out of that fight that, and he just gored her.”

More of Subolefsky’s work can be found on his Instagram and Facebook.

Image credits: Photographs by Joe Subolefsky