For two years, an elk was seen with a tire around its neck. Now, after several attempts, wildlife officials have freed the animal of the rubber hindrance.
The bull elk was first spotted by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officer in 2019 conducting a population survey of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the Mount Evans Wilderness, about 30 miles west of Denver, according to a news release from CPW on Monday.
"Being up in the wilderness, we didn't really expect to be able to get our hands on the elk just because of the proximity or the distance away from civilization," CPW officer Scott Murdoch said in the release. "It is harder to get the further they are back in there and usually the further these elk are away from people, the wilder they act. That certainly played true the last couple of years, this elk was difficult to find and harder to get close to."
Since then the wild animal has been spotted a handful of times by trail cameras and was known to travel between Park and Jefferson counties, reads the release. Wildlife officials monitored the animal over the years and saw the tire wasn't affecting its ability to eat and drink. But officials feared that the animal would become tangled in tree branches, fencing or even with another elk's antlers, according to CPW Public Information Officer, Jason Clay.
CPW released videos and images of the elk through the years in hopes the community would call and report it if seen. Last weekend, a community tip from Pine, Colorado, led wildlife officers to successfully being able to help the 4-year-old.
On Saturday, Murdoch and CPW officer Dawson Swanson safely tranquilized the over 600-pound animal and removed the tire. Officers had to cut off the antlers to slide the tire off.
"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," Murdoch said in the news release. "We would have preferred to cut the tire and leave the antlers for his rutting activity, but the situation was dynamic and we had to just get the tire off in any way possible."
Officers estimated that the tire was filled with 10 pounds of debris and that the elk dropped 35 pounds with the removal of tire and antlers. They also were surprised at the condition of the animal's neck.
"The hair was rubbed off a little bit. There was one small open wound maybe the size of a nickel or quarter, but other than that it looked really good," said Murdoch. "I was actually quite shocked to see how good it looked."
This was the fourth time in a week officers have tried to tranquilize the animal to remove the tire, but several factors including other elk being near hindered efforts.
"Tranquilizer equipment is a relatively short-range tool and given the number of other elk moving together along with other environmental factors, you really need to have things go in your favor to have a shot or opportunity pan out," said Swanson in the news release.
Officers said neighbors in the area assisted and that the elk was back on its feet within a matter of minutes after they administered a tranquilizer reversal.
The mystery remains as to how and when the elk got the tire stuck. But CPW said it either happened when the elk was younger or during the winter when it shed its antlers.
Officials said this elk's saga just highlights the importance for residents to live responsibly with wildlife in mind. They said for people to keep their property free of obstacles wildlife could become entangled in like netting, hammocks, clothing lines and holiday lighting.
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