Today, we have tragic news from Arizona: A woman has died eight days after what appears to have been an elk attack in her own backyard. Although nobody was present to witness the event, the evidence of what happened is fairly clear. It also provides a sad warning about the dangers of human/elk interaction.
The attack occurred on the afternoon of Oct. 26 while the woman’s husband was away. When he returned, he found his wife on the ground in the backyard with injuries consistent with being trampled by an elk. He also observed a bucket of spilled corn nearby. Given these facts, it's apparent that an elk attacked her while she was attempting to feed it.
The husband called 911, and his wife put into a medically induced coma due to the extent of her injuries. Unfortunately, the help came too late and she succumbed to her injuries.
This is believed to be the first fatal elk attack in Arizona. There have been five reported elk attacks in the state during the past five years. Feeding is one of the main sources of conflict between humans and wildlife. Fed wildlife becomes habituated to humans. For example, in 2015, two children suffered minor injuries after a food-seeking elk circled a picnic table from which their family was eating in the Hualapai Mountains. In 2021, an adult female received serious head injuries from an elk that was habituated to humans in Pine.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) did not learn about the attack until the next day, Oct. 27, when a local resident informed a department officer. On Oct. 28, another AZGFD officer visited the community, put door hanger warning signs on residences along the road advising people not to approach or feed elk, and spoke with the victim’s husband and other residents. While at the victim’s residence, the officer observed multiple elk tracks in the yard.
This is the grimmest possible reminder that even herbivores like members of the deer family can and will attack humans. Wildlife that are fed by people, or that get food sources from items such as unsecured garbage or pet food, lose their natural fear of humans and become dependent on unnatural food sources. Feeding puts at risk the person doing the feeding, their neighbors and the wildlife itself. Help keep wildlife wild: limit how much pet food you leave outside, secure your trash, and whatever you do ... don't feed the elk.