ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – St. Louis County officials have warned that it’s elk caving season at Lone Elk Park in Valley Park. They said that cow elk are much more aggressive towards people, with attacks that can be unprovoked and unpredictable.

“They might not even know that they’re near one of their calves because they’ll hide them in the woods,” said Sgt. Cheryl Fechter with the St. Louis County Park Rangers. “And so it’s a possibility, we had a hiker get a little bit too close, and we had one of the cows just trying to protect herself and her baby.”

Signs all over let hikers on the three-mile trail know that elk can be aggressive and attack without warning. Elk aggressively defend their young.

“These are very large animals,” Fechter said. “They are 800 to 1,000 pounds. They’re much, much larger than a deer. When they want to protect themselves, they will rear up on their back legs and kick out with their front legs.”

On Monday afternoon, three sizable elk were sitting by the roadside. Park rangers tell hikers that if they see elk on a trail, they need to get as far away from the animal as possible.

“In the fall, it will be mating season,” Fechter said. “Right now, the cows can be a little aggressive as they’re trying to protect their young. Then in the fall, it’s the bulls, the males, that will be aggressive when they are trying to mate with the cows.”