James York got a little more than he bargained for on his trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! The photographer was at the park in late October. One day while shooting in the Cataloochee Valley, an elk approached him and did something bizarre and dangerous: he tried to spar with York.
The elk had been the subject of York's photos for minutes, and while York was a safe distance away at first, the curiosity of the elk brought him to where York was sitting so that he could get a closer look at his camera.
York was seated, and by the time the elk arrived, he feared that standing might provoke the elk and it would keep him less protected than huddling together would. So that's exactly what he did. With his head down and arms and legs wrapped up close, York waited for the animal to think him submissive, and run off.
Instead, York's head prompted the elk to also put his head down, but in elk-talk, that means, "lets spar." The elk repeatedly tried to get York to spar with him to no avail. He knocked into him over and over, but never hard enough to hurt the photographer.
It took six long minutes for York to gain the courage to stand, get to his car and leave the elk, unharmed. While it seems like maybe the elk just wanted to play, it was probably one of the scariest moments of this photographer's life.