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Wildlife Officers Spot Elk With Tire Around Its Neck for 2 Years, Remove Rubber Burden Finally

Colorado Wildlife officers successfully removed a tire from around the neck of a 600-pound male elk last month. The 4-year-old bull had been wearing the 20-pound tire for the last two years, first being sighted in July 2019.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers had made several attempts to track him down to remove the cumbersome tire, finally succeeding when the elk was reported in a neighborhood near Pine Junction last October.

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A trail camera sighted the elk on July 12, 2020. (Courtesy of Dan Jaynes via Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
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The first sighting of the bull with the tire around his neck captured by Wildlife Officer Jared Lamb in July 2019 during a survey for bighorn sheep and mountain goats. (Courtesy of Jared Lamb/Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Officer Dawson Swanson responded and was able to intercept the animal and get close enough to implement a tranquilizer dart.

After calling for assistance, Swanson was joined by Officer Scott Murdock, and together they attempted to cut through the tire but were unable to, and had to cut off the elk’s antlers—which will grow back in the spring.

“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,” Murdock said in a press release. “Fortunately, the bull’s neck still had a little room to move.

“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.”

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(Left) Locating the bull elk after darting it with the tranquilizer. (Courtesy of Pat Hemstreet via Colorado Parks and Wildlife); (Right) Wildlife officer Dawson Swanson attempting to cut the tire off. (Courtesy of Pat Hemstreet via Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Previously, the officers feared the elk’s neck would swell during breeding season, causing the tire to cut off blood circulation or airflow for the animal or prevent growth.

After the tire’s removal, they noted that some hair was rubbed off and saw a wound “the size of a nickel or a quarter,” but found his neck was in surprisingly good condition, the statement said.

After freeing the elk, they administered a tranquilizer reversal and the bull was back on his hooves within minutes—leaving the scene about 35 pounds lighter.

The 20-pound tire had accumulated debris over the last two years.

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(Left) Wildlife Officers Scott Murdoch (L) and Dawson Swanson hold up the tire that was on this bull elk for over two years. (Courtesy of Pat Hemstreet via Colorado Parks and Wildlife); (Right) The elk’s neck showed surprisingly little injury from the tire. (Courtesy of Pat Hemstreet via Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

“The tire was full of wet pine needles and dirt,” Murdoch said. “So the pine needles, dirt, and other debris basically filled the entire bottom half of the tire. There was probably 10 pounds of debris in the tire.”

“I am just grateful to be able to work in a community that values out state’s wildlife resource,” Swanson said. “I was able to locate the bull in question along with a herd of about 40 other elk.”

Wildlife during winter often make themselves scarce, but mating season afforded the officers an opportunity to locate and unburden the bull.

Animals occasionally do venture in where people live and put their heads in things which they then walk away with.

Parks and Wildlife advises locals to be aware of obstacles that wildlife can get tangled in, such as swing sets, hammocks, soccer goals, and yes, tires.

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Epoch Inspired Staff


Epoch Inspired staff cover stories of hope that celebrate kindness, traditions, and triumph of the human spirit, offering valuable insights into life, culture, family and community, and nature.

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