An 83-year-old woman got the scare of her life after a near-deadly encounter with a mother elk.
"She trampled my head and stomped on me all over my body, my leg has 17 stitches," said Jeri Longenbaugh, who for 34 years had lived peacefully among elk in the Arizona high country of Payson, about 90 miles northeast from Phoenix.
"I've had elk in the yard ever since I've lived here and I have always [gone] out in the yard and never have been afraid of them," said Longenbaugh.
Around 2 a.m. last Friday, Longenbaugh got a wake-up call to the reality of wildlife when her dogs started barking. The noise coaxed Jeri outside, which is when she spotted an elk calf inside her gated yard. Her next move to open the front gate to herd the small animal back out nearly cost the former Marine her life.
"The baby won't go out the gate, he starts like walking the opposite direction, then up the front part of the fence," she said. "I hear something behind me and I turn around to see what I hear and she's there."
Face to face with a mamma elk, things soon went black when Longenbaugh was temporarily knocked out.
When she regained consciousness, she was in the middle of a fight for her life.
"I can see myself, my feet, and I'm kicking the elk," said Longenbaugh, who soon passed out again.
When she woke up, the sight of her wounds sent family members into a panic and her daughter into tears.
"There was blood everywhere, all over her car, her bedroom," said her daughter Linda McEuen.
Doctors told Longenbaugh it's a miracle she didn't break any bones. Images of her injuries show her body covered in deep bruises and lacerations.
Now, she's has a message for everyone else who thinks these animals are just gentle giants.
"You don't want to look like I do now, that's the first message, and the second message is this, don't trust them, they're wild animals, they'll protect their young at all cost -- even if you mean them no harm," said Longenbaugh.
Arizona Game and Fish says most elk attacks are by males and take place during the mating season, which is in September and October.
State officials say this is an example of why everyone one should take caution when encountering any type of wildlife.