PINE, Colorado — Colorado wildlife officials made a local elk's life a little easier when they successfully removed a tire that had been stuck around its neck for two years.
The two officers, Dawson Swanson and Scott Murdoch, managed to tranquilize the elk on their fourth attempt of the week. A resident reported sighting the elk near Pine Junction early Saturday, and this time Swanson and Murdoch were able to hit their target.
Tranquilizing an animal, particularly a wild elk that weighs over 600 pounds, can be tricky business. The tranquilizer gun "is a relatively short-range tool" and "you really need to have things go in your favor to have a shot or opportunity," according to Swanson.
With the elk now down, the wildlife officers were able to get to work.
They began by cutting down the elk's antlers to create enough space to move the tire. Murdoch said they "would have preferred to cut the tire and leave the antlers... but the situation was dynamic and we just had to get the tire off."
With the tire now off, the officers took a look at the elk's neck, which turned out to be in far better shape than anticipated. Murdoch was "quite shocked to see how good it looked." The elk's "hair was rubbed off a little bit... there was one small open wound... but other than that it looked really good."
The elk woke up a few minutes after the procedure 35 pounds lighter. That includes the antlers, the tire, and the roughly 10 pounds of debris that had filled in the bottom of the tire.
This elk's story is a pertinent reminder of the impact humans can have on the wildlife around them. Wildlife can become entangled in a wide range of man made objects, from swing sets, to hammocks, to soccer goals, and of course, tires. You can help prevent similar incidents by keeping your property free of these obstacles.
If you do see this elk, or any other animal, that is entangled or has debris stuck to it, wildlife officials recommend that you report it immediately. This can be done by calling the CPW's Denver office at 303-291-7227.