Wildlife officials in Colorado say an elusive elk that wandered the hills with a car tyre around his neck for at least two years has at last been freed.
The four-and-a-half-year-old, 270kg (600lb) bull elk was spotted near Pine Junction, south-west of Denver, on Saturday evening and tranquillised, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It was the fourth attempt wildlife officers had made in the past week to try to capture and help him.
Officers with the agency had to cut off the elk’s five-point antlers to remove the object because they couldn’t slice through the steel in the bead of the tyre.
“We would have preferred to cut the tyre and leave the antlers for his rutting activity, but the situation was dynamic and we had to just get the tyre off in any way possible,” officer Scott Murdoch said.
Murdoch and fellow officer Dawson Swanson estimated the elk was freed of about 16kg (35lb) with the removal of the tire, the antlers and debris inside the tyre.
“I am just grateful to be able to work in a community that values our state’s wildlife resource,” Swanson said. “I was able to quickly respond to a report from a local resident regarding a recent sighting of this bull elk in their neighbourhood. I was able to locate the bull in question along with a herd of about 40 other elk.”
Swanson and Murdoch were surprised to see its neck was in good condition after two years of chafing. “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 rutting season played a role in helping officers find him. Murdoch said: “The rut definitely made him more visible. There was a bigger bull in the group he was with on Saturday, but he is getting to be a decent size bull.”
Wildlife officers first spotted the elk in July 2019 while conducting a population survey for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the Mount Evans Wilderness. He has since spent the past couple of years travelling back and forth between Park and Jefferson counties.
They say they have seen deer, elk, moose, bears and other wildlife become entangled in a number of items, including swing sets, hammocks, clotheslines, decorative or holiday lighting, furniture, tomato cages, chicken feeders, laundry baskets, soccer goals and volleyball nets.
With Associated Press