Protective Elk Mama Relocated
By: Kris Hazelton
Last Saturday, a very protective elk mama stood guard over her newborn calf near Kind Coffee. She charged at each and every passer-by thinking they were a threat to her baby. Members of the Estes Park Police Dept. cordoned off the area and stood watch near the cow and warned pedestrians to give her a wide berth.
Police tried to coax her to move on, but it became evident she didn’t want to leave and since she was in such close proximity to people on the riverwalk, police called Colorado Division of Wildlife Manager Rick Spowart for help and advise.
Upon evaluating the situation, Spowart decided that as a last ditch effort, the elk and her calf should be moved to a place where she wouldn’t have as much human contact, a place where she could raise her baby without people walking by, causing her to be overprotective.
Rick darted the cow with a tranquilizer, just enough to get her calmed down and subdued and called for the help of some Estes Park Volunteer Fire fighters to get their assistance in moving the cow to a new location.
Once the tranquilizer took effect and the cow laid down, they quickly rolled her onto a tarp and managed to load he 800 pound cow into a stock trailer for transport. Spowart got the calf and they were off with its mother for a relocation trip to McGraw Ranch.
Once they got to the ranch, they unloaded the cow and her calf and Rick administered a drug to wake up the mother. She quickly woke up and after a few minutes, was able to stand and the calf was anxious to nurse.
Spowart said, “This was a last ditch effort. If any elk has physical contact with a human, the CDOW says I must put them down. Hopefully, she’ll stay out in this area and not come back near the pedestrian trails. She will be much better off in the ranch area.” Rick wanted to thank members of the fire department who helped move the elk, “She was very heavy and I could not have done this without their help.”
Rick gives us some helpful tips in case you happen to run into a protective elk mama: “In the next few weeks, there are going to be many new elk calves born in and around town. It’s our responsibility to be aware and not get too close to the baby or the mother.” The cows have calves all over town and you just never know when you’re going to happen to walk by a mother and calf.
If you encounter a protective mother, the best thing to do, is to back away quickly. Don’t turn your back on her, as you won’t know if she is charging you. Make yourself look large. If you have a jacket, raise it above your head, and swing it around, make yourself look formidable. Chances are the mother will be glad you’re leaving their space.
If you happen to be walking or jogging with a dog, the elk will be even more on alert and aggressive towards your dog. She will see your pet as a predator to her baby. The best thing to do in this case is to let your dog go for the time, and save yourself. The elk will most likely chase off your dog and you can retrieve him a bit further down the trail.
If you’re taking a walk on the lake trail, and happen to find the trail is closed, heed the warning and walk the other way.
Educating ourselves and our visitors about wildlife issues is the right thing to do, especially around calving time and during the fall rut. Remember, there’s a reason it’s called wildlife.