COPARKSWILDLIFE NorthEast Region/ twitter
A rubber weight has been lifted from the shoulders of a long-suffering bull elk in Pine, Colorado.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) release, wildlife officers Dawson Swanson and Scott Murdoch removed a tire off the wild animal's neck. This successful rescue operation came after several failed attempts to help the elk out of the tire this year.
CPW first spotted the elk with the tire stuck around its neck in July 2019 during a population survey of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the Mount Evans Wilderness. The animal, estimated to be around two years old in 2019, was stuck with a heavy tire around its neck for at least two years.
"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," Murdoch said in the release on the difficulty CPW had trying to help the elk. "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."
Between 2019 and 2021, trail cameras picked up the elk, still hauling the tire, on video, and several humans reported sightings of the animal. It wasn't until this year that the elk and its current herd started appearing closer to residential areas. This led to more sightings and more opportunities to attempt tranquilizing the animal.
On Saturday, Swanson responded to a sighting of the elk with the tire and was able to find and successfully tranquilize the animal.
"I am just grateful to be able to work in a community that values our state's wildlife resource," Swanson said in CPW's release about the rescue. "I was able to quickly respond to a report from a local resident regarding a recent sighting of this bull elk in their neighborhood. I was able to locate the bull in question along with a herd of about 40 other elk."
After tranquilizing the animal, Swanson called in Murdoch to help remove the tire. The pair worked quickly — since they knew the tranquilizer wouldn't work long on the 600-pound animal — sawing off the bull elk's antlers and maneuvering the tire over the animal's head and off its body.
"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," Murdoch said, adding that the bull elk "looked really good" after having the tire removed.
We first learned of this elk with a tire around its neck in July 2019 when wildlife officer Jared Lamb saw it during a survey near Mount Evans. In this video, wildlife officer Scott Murdoch discusses the situation & what it would take to remove the tire.https://t.co/Frwi3kaXlc pic.twitter.com/xRrZ9nNChw
— CPW NE Region (@CPW_NE) August 14, 2020
"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," he said of the elk's injuries from the tire.
Several minutes after having the tire removed, the elk was back on his hooves on his way, feeling a bit lighter. Swanson and Murdoch estimate that the elk lost 35 pounds with the removal of the tire, the debris inside the tire, and the animal's antlers.
CPW recommends that if you see wildlife caught in debris, you report it immediately to local wildlife officials.