On October 9, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials successfully removed a tire from the neck of a bull elk that had been toting the spare for over two years.
A CPW officer first spotted the bull with a tire stuck around its neck in July 2019 while on a sheep count in the Mount Evans Wilderness.
First sighting of elk with tire on neck via Jared Lamb, CPW.
The bull resurfaced this May, and officials made four attempts to catch him in the Pleasant Park area near Conifer. This fall, he started making public appearances again, this time near the town of Pine.
According to a press release from CPW, after a resident reported seeing the tire-bound elk in a herd of about 40, officers Dawson Swanson and Scott Murdoch tranquilized the bull around 8 p.m. a mile south of Pine Junction. Officials believe the rut was critical to their success in finally capturing the elk.
Tranquilized elk via Pat Hemstreet, CPW.
The four-and-a-half-year-old bull weighed in over 600 pounds and had five points on each of its antler beams. With two years of growth under his belt since he was first spotted with the tire, officials expected that freeing the bull would be no simple task.
“It was tight removing it,” Murdoch said. “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.”
Cutting the tire via Pat Hemstreet, CPW.
Unfortunately, the bull had to lose his antlers along with the tire.
“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.
Overall, the elk didn’t appear to be significantly affected by the burden of the tire.
“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.”
Swanson and Murdoch with tire and antlers via Pat Hemstreet, CPW.
The bull was back on all fours within a few minutes of officials administering sedation reversal agent. Swanson and Murdoch estimate that the bull elk dropped about 35 pounds between the removal of the tire, his antlers, and the pine needles, dirt, and various debris found inside the tire.
His luck in the rut may be diminished without antlers, but this bull now has the opportunity to grow without a rubber ring around his neck. While the incident is rare, it’s not unheard of for bulls to entangle themselves. These common outdoor objects have all wrapped themselves around elk antlers, from swing sets to batting nets and zip lines to hammocks, often requiring wildlife officials to intervene.
MeatEater applauds CPW’s dedicated effort to free this elk and echoes their sentiment to be mindful of wildlife near your residence. If you live in close quarters with deer or elk, consider taking your hammock down after the summer, removing the kid’s swings during the rut, and asking yourself if that pile of tires in your backyard is truly necessary.
Feature image via Dan Jaynes, CPW.