Estes Park, Colorado, is a small tourist town just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. It is a great place to stop and window shop and browse through the stores. In fact those stores are so inviting that on Saturday a large bull elk decided to do just that in a shop called the Water Wheel Gift Corner located on, of all things, Elkhorn Avenue.
Even in winter the shops in Estes tend to leave their doors open on nice days to invite shoppers in. The shop owner, Prateek Shakya, was having a day like any other. As he was refilling his water bottle he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. What should have been just another customer turned out to be a large bull elk.
Shakya was trapped because there is no back door to the shop, and he was more than a little startled at the sight of this big boy walking into his shop. Freaked out as he was he still had the presence of mind to pull out his cell phone and start filming his unusual visitor. While Shakya's nerves were a bit worse for the wear, the elk remained totally calm and hung out for about 45 minutes just idly chewing his cud. At one point the elk walked outside to check out the crowd gathering to watch him and then went back inside again.
Two law enforcement officers were already outside attempting to lure the elk away, so Shakya didn't need to be calling 911 for help. He just had to stay calm and keep an eye on his unusual guest. At least this wasn't the height of the tourist season when there might have been customers freaking out and possibly agitating the animal. Honestly I don't know how he managed to get those antlers through the door!
The officers finally armed themselves with an apple to lure the animal out of the store for good. Fortunately nothing in the store was damaged and the elk had managed to not have any "accidents" on the floor. Shakya has recovered quickly and chalked the whole thing up to being the experience of a lifetime.
Elk, which are also called wapiti in Shawnee and Cree, are not an uncommon sight around Estes, though not generally indoors. They roam through town frequently enough that you will see garden beds neatly covered in sturdy boxes of chicken wire to keep them safe from the usual browsing of the ruminants. Any tasty tidbit that dares grow outside of these confines are neatly nipped off by the elk. For people in Colorado it is a common autumn activity to drive up through Estes Park to Rocky Mountain National Park to hang out and listen to the bull elk bugling for the mating season. I have done this before and a stop in town for a meal and a browse is always in order.
Estes Park is about a two-hour drive from Denver and makes a nice base for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park and views of its plentiful wildlife. On an interesting non-animal-related note, this is also the location of The Stanley Hotel, which provided the interiors for the movie The Shining starring Jack Nicholson.
Images via YouTube