Elk are formidable creatures who do their best to stay away from human beings. Yet every so often, our worlds collide.
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Two years ago, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer Jared Lamb was conducting a population survey for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goats when he saw an elk who’d gotten a little too close to civilization.
The 2-year-old bull elk had a full-size car tire around his neck! Officials speculate that he got the tire stuck around his neck when he was young, before he grew his antlers. They quickly warned locals about the dangers of keeping debris and trash around their properties; elk aren’t the only wildlife to become entangled, after all, and it’s never easy to free them.
Authorities asked neighbors in the Pine, Colorado, area to keep an eye on their game cameras and report any sightings of the animal. During the winter months, sightings always died down, but during “rut,” the elk’s breeding season, many people reported seeing him.
Even though he was able to eat and drink, wildlife officers were concerned that he would get caught in foliage or fencing.
Here is some video of this bull elk over the past two years. pic.twitter.com/R6t9nNPOyb– CPW NE Region (@CPW_NE) October 11, 2021
Two years after the first sighting, officials responded to a tip that the bull elk was with a herd of about 40 others on private property near Pine Junction. Over the course of the next week, they tried three times to tranquilize him but couldn’t quite manage it.
The fourth try was the charm! Wildlife Officer Dawson Swanson successfully tranquilized the elk, and Officer Scott Murdoch stepped in to remove the tire.
With sedated animals, every second counts. When they couldn’t immediately cut the tire off, they were forced to remove the elk’s antlers so they could pry it off his neck. Even without antlers, it was a tough job.
“It was tight removing it,” Murdoch said in a statement. “It was not easy for sure, we had to move it just right to get it off because we weren’t able to cut the steel in the bead of the tire. Fortunately, the bull’s neck still had a little room to move.”
The good news is that removing the antlers doesn’t harm the animal at all. They will grow back next season!
More good news: When they got the tire off, they discovered it was full of pine needles, dirt, and other soggy debris. Officials estimate that the tire and its contents added a good 35 pounds of weight to the animal. He probably felt light as a feather when he woke up!
The officers examined the bull’s neck and found very little damage from the tire he’d been wearing for over two years. The 600-pound beast was revived and sent on his way, and the officers took a well-deserved victory lap.
“I am just grateful to be able to work in a community that values our state’s wildlife resource,” Swanson said.
Wildlife officials are asking people to remove human-made obstacles like swings, hammocks, clotheslines, tomato cages, and of course, tires from their yards. That seems like a small price to pay to live among such majestic animals!
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