PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Rachel Gecho said she was walking her dog, Nacho, at Les Shirley Park in Cannon Beach on December 4 when he spotted some rabbits and gave chase. That led to a wildlife confrontation — with elk.

“(Nacho) turned and he kind of ran towards the bunny and then all of a sudden 3 elk come, like, charging at us behind the bushes,” Gecho told KOIN 6 News. “I had Nacho on a leash and I pulled him so hard that it kind of flipped him on his back.”

As she bent over to help her dog, an elk knocked into her.

Rachel Gecho’s dog Nacho was injured in a confrontation with an elk in Cannon Beach on December 4, 2021 (Courtesy: Rachel Gecho)

“One of them kind of hit me and then, like, I kind of jumped back and I tried to grab Nacho’s leash again. And then another one that was behind it started kind of running at me and the one that hit me started attacking my dog and trampling on him,” she said. “They both started going after the dog and I just ran back to the house, which was right there, just right across the street and I left him. I still feel horrible.”

Gecho got her husband, who grabbed a gun. When they returned, the elk were gone. Nacho was alive but hurt. An X-ray later showed his back was broken.

They called the police, but Gecho is not happy with their response.

“We said, ‘What if they attack us again? We’re going to shoot them.’ And they were like, ‘You can’t shoot them. It’s not hunting season. You’ll go to jail.'”

Cannon Beach police said the Oregon State Police Fish and Game Division and ODFW said, “elk see dogs as ‘wolves’ and therefore a potential threat to the herd. … We are encouraging people to use caution when walking at night, use a flashlight and wear reflective clothing to make yourself seen, also to be aware of your surroundings.”

Elk graze at Les Shirley Park in Cannon Beach, undated (KOIN, file)

Still, she remains frustrated.

“We called the Fish and Wildlife people. We asked if they can put up signs. I mean, the city needs to be, like, warning people,” she said.

“The veterinarian takes a stick with him when he walks his dog. I’m, like, this is crazy that nobody knows this. You know, everybody celebrates these elk and I get it. These are wild animals. But still, like, especially in a state park, like, remove all the bushes so they can’t hide, I guess. I don’t know.”

ODFW issued a statement:

Elk are most aggressive during the fall rut (September) and when they are raising calves in the early summer (May-June). There are many elk in residential areas of Clatsop County including Cannon Beach. There are a few things people who live in or visit these areas should keep in mind.

-It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and to never get too close to elk.
-Always keep dogs on a leash. Any wildlife will feel threatened by a dog which is why it’s always recommended to keep them on a leash to avoid surprising elk or other wildlife.
-Don’t intentionally or unintentionally feed elk because it will draw them to your property.
-Use elk-resistant landscaping in your yard.
-If approached by an elk, slowly back away to put distance between you and the animal. Create space for the animal to pass.

We are working with the city to educate area residents and visitors about issues with elk. The city may have more information.

ODFW spokesperson Beth Quillian said there are many elk in residential areas of Clatsop County, including Cannon Beach.

“In general, we always advise visitors to admire all wildlife, large or small, from a distance. The ocean shore is a wild, natural place, which is why we all love it,” Quillian said. “That flip side of that coin is: we all need to show it some respect. We recommend keeping animals leashed, even though that’s not required on the beach.”