Yellowstone National Park is warning tourists to be extra careful around elk during the annual rut, or mating season, which is in progress through mid-October.

                        a couple of sheep walking along a river next to a body of water: Courtesy of ?Pete Thomas? Pete Thomas

                        Courtesy of ?Pete Thomas

                        At this time bull elk bugle to announce their availability to females, and as challenges to other bull elk, as they form and protect harems.

                        a cow is walking down the street: Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park? Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park

                        Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park

                        Brief but ferocious clashes are part of this spectacle, and bull elk are most unpredictable during the rut.

                        "Be alert! People have been severely injured by elk," the park stated in a news release issued Tuesday. "Elk run quickly and may change direction without warning."

                        a car parked in a parking lot: File Photo? File Photo File Photo

                        The park urges tourists to stay at least 25 yards from elk, but the rule is often ignored.

                        The most popular area in which to witness the rut is Mammoth Hot Springs and the Albright Visitor Center. Large numbers of elk gather on the vast lawns and tourists are constantly being cautioned to give them space, and to avoid standing between bulls and their harems.

                        Last September, a tourist captured video footage showing a bull elk charging a man and knocking him to the ground with its antlers. The man was not seriously injured.

                        In its news release, Yellowstone stated, "If an elk charges you, find shelter in your vehicle or behind a tall, sturdy barrier as quickly as possible. You are responsible for your own safety."

                        Yellowstone National Park which encompasses parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, is summer range for up to 20,000 elk.

                        Final image courtesy of ?Pete Thomas

                        WATCH: Family caught in Yellowstone bison stampede describe "total fear" (provided by TODAY)

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