It’s completely against the odds, but after getting cornered by a pack of wolves, a 6-point bull elk managed to hold its own and walk away no worse for the wear.
This entire interaction wast captured in Yellowstone National Park by wildlife photographer Don Jones in 2008. He first found the bull elk standing in a creek as three wolves watched him from the bank.
The wolves were part of a group known as the Druid Pack, which consists of 16 wolves.
Jones spent a month photographing this particular area, saying the wolves kept returning to feed on dead bull elk. Three other bull elk had already died in this spot that the wolves had eaten.
“It was like they were going to the refrigerator,” Jones says.
The older wolves would stay back as they sent the younger wolves closer to the bull elk. The bull would charge the wolves anytime they attempted to get near the water.
Unfortunately, the bull elk wasn’t the brightest. Every time he was in the clear and the wolves had left because they lost interest, he would walk towards the pack instead of running away. They would then chase him back to the exact same spot in the creek and the entire process would start over again. This ended up happening four times over the course of four hours.
It’s an incredibly odd situation. Most elk would would have been killed by the wolves after going on land, but this obviously wasn’t a normal elk – he never even got hurt.
“He was never bleeding,” Jones said. “He was a fit elk, defending himself and doing a fine job of it.”
The elk eventually escaped, walking past a lone wolf left to watch him after the others had retreated. When the elk passed the wolf, which was curled up to stay warm, it simply looked at him before tucking its head back into its body.
“I think he just wanted to sleep,” Jones said. “And the rest of the pack had no visual.”
The pack did eventually come back and pursue the bull after it had been long gone, and while they had no luck finding him, they did get lucky. They were spotted the next morning on the side of the road with a dead cow elk.
“I thought they were going to kill him,” Jones said when discussing the bull elk that got away. “But they didn’t.”