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In 2019, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officials spotted something unusual during the annual population survey of bighorn sheep and mountain goats: A bull elk wearing a tire around its neck.
The same elk, still sporting his rubberized accessory, has been spotted a few more times over the years, mostly in the Mt. Evans Wilderness and Park and Jefferson counties. Wildlife officials tried to monitor it as closely as possible, concerned that the tire could pose a safety hazard. Though the elk was able to eat and drink without apparent difficulty, the risk of tangling in trees, another elk’s antlers, or fencing remained, and CPW decided the tire had to go.
It took a while to track this elusive elk down, though. With a range that was almost exclusively wilderness, keeping well away from cities and towns, the elk was completely unaccustomed to humans and very skittish in their presence. It was only last week that wildlife officials finally managed to catch it, thanks to a tip from residents just south of Pine Junction who spotted the elk in their neighborhood. It still took four tries for officers Dawson Swanson and Scott Murdoch to tranquilize it.
The saga of the bull elk with a tire around its neck is over. Thanks to the residents just south of Pine Junction on CR 126 for reporting its location, wildlife officers were able to free it of that tire Saturday.
📸’s courtesy of Pat Hemstreet pic.twitter.com/OcnceuZrpk
— CPW NE Region (@CPW_NE) October 11, 2021
Once the elk was unconscious, the officers began attempting to remove the tire while causing the least amount of harm to the animal. In the end, they opted to remove the bull’s antlers in order to pull the tire off over his head, after having trouble getting through the tire’s steel bead with the reciprocating saw they were using to remove it. The tire was filled with pine needles, dirt, and other debris, adding what officer Murdoch estimated was at least ten pounds of weight. Altogether, between the tire, the debris filling it, and the antlers, the wildlife officers probably removed 35 pounds from the elk. Beneath the tire, his neck was in surprisingly good shape, with just a few areas of rubbed-off hair and one small open wound.
Tires aren’t the only entanglement risk for wildlife. If you live somewhere where elk, deer, bears, and other animals often visit your yard, make sure you don’t leave out obstacles like clothing lines, volleyball nets, and stacks of tires.