The Bugle Boy Of Estes Park
By: Kris Hazelton
It doesn’t take long to figure out that the rut, the elk mating season, is in full swing in Estes Park. The shrill sound of bull elk bugling can be heard throughout the Estes Valley as we watch the bulls earnestly gathering their harems and fighting off their rivals.
Last weekend, one of Estes Park’s biggest bulls was very pumped up with testosterone and began chasing anything that moved around him. (This bull happened to be the bull that had Christmas lights in his antlers we featured in the EP News several weeks ago). This bull had become quite aggressive and began charging at cars and people and even managed to poke a hole in a car with his antlers.
Rick Spowart CDOW Manager got a call from the 18 Hole Golf Course on Saturday about this particular elk. Staff at the golf course had to close off some of the holes because this bull was charging carts and people, anything that came too close to his harem of cows. Spowart realized that someone was bound to get hurt by this massive animal and he decided he would tranquilize the bull and cut his antlers off, a painless procedure for the elk. This technique has been used successfully in Banff, Canada and Yellowstone National Park with particularly aggressive bulls.
Spowart shot a tranquilizing dart into the animal and a crowd began to gather off of Fish Creek Road to watch events unfold. The bull went down and when Rick would attempt to see if he was ‘out’ enough to saw off his antlers, the bull would pick his head up and look right at him. Another dose of tranquilizer had to be administered by Rick.
As soon as the bull was out of commission, rival bulls in the area quickly made off with his harem of cows, taking them as their own.
As the bull dozed off, Rick got his saw and cut the bulls antlers off under the brow tines. It may seem like a sad thing to do, but it saved this bull’s life as the only other option was to euthanize him due to the fact that he was such a danger to anyone in his vicinity.
After the antlers were removed, it took until about 10 p.m. before he finally was up and walking again. DOW volunteer Jane Zmijewski watched the bull to make sure he woke up from the tranquilizer and that the other bulls left him alone. She said that as soon as he was up, he began sparring with the other bulls who were still hanging around watching him. She said, “He got up and almost immediately ran over to spar with another bull. I kind of cringed when I heard them hit, the bull without antlers didn’t realize what had just happened to him and his forehead crashed into the head of the other bull. I think he realized then right away that his antlers were now missing!”
Spowart checked on the bull the next morning and found him calmly resting in amongst the aspens, alive and well. The remainder of the rut will be a quiet one now for this particular bull and next spring, he’ll re-grow a new set of antlers and be ready to face his rivals once again.