An elusive Colorado elk with a tire stuck around its neck for at least two years was freed of its appendage Saturday night when state wildlife officers tranquilized the bull and cut its antlers to remove the obstacle.
“It was tight removing it,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer Scott Murdoch said in a news release. “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. 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.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers Dawson Swanson and Murdoch received a report of the elk Saturday evening from a resident of Pine, roughly one mile south of Pine Junction on private property off of County Road 126. The elk — estimated to be about 4 1/2 years old and weighing more than 600 pounds with five points on each of its antler beams — was in a herd of about 40 other elk, according to the news release.
Once Swanson and Murdoch removed the tire, they examined 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,” Murdoch said. “I was actually quite shocked to see how good it looked.”
The successful removal was the fourth attempt by wildlife officers in the past week to tranquilize the bull.
“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,” Swanson said. “I was able to get within range a few times that evening, however, other elk or branches blocked any opportunities. It was not until shortly before dark that everything came together and I was able to hit the bull with the dart.”
Swanson said the operation only took a few minutes and soon the elk was back on its feet, estimated to be about 35 pounds lighter.
“The tire was full of wet pine needles and dirt,” Murdoch said. “So the pine needles, dirt and other debris basically filled the entire bottom half of the tire. There was probably 10 pounds of debris in the tire.”
Wildlife officers first became aware of the elk in July 2019 when an officer spotted it while conducting a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goats population survey in the Mount Evans Wilderness. Since then, a handful of additional sightings have occurred, the news release said.
“The saga of this bull elk highlights the need for residents to live responsibly with wildlife in mind,” the news release read. “That includes keeping your property free of obstacles that wildlife can get tangled in or injured by.”
Wildlife officers have seen deer, elk, moose, bears and other wildlife get tangled in items including swing sets, hammocks, clothing lines, decorative or holiday lighting, furniture, tomato cages, chicken feeders, laundry baskets, soccer goals, volleyball nets and tires, the news release said.
If you spot an animal tangled in something, Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends reporting it to the agency’s Denver office at 303-291-7227.
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