By: Kris Hazelton
Last week dispatch began receiving calls from residents about a yearling elk with something stuck to its nose and mouth. Upon closer inspection, the object stuck to the elk was determined to be a rat trap, commonly used in our area to catch ground squirrels.
Colorado Division of Wildlife District Manager Rick Spowart was aware of this young elk but was having trouble locating it. Last Saturday, Rachelle Repine called dispatch and told them the elk was in her yard at that very moment and immediately Spowart was on his way to help!
The elk had been walking around with the trap on its muzzle for at least a couple of days and was becoming distraught and frustrated. This was obviously a very painful situation for this young elk. A cow in the herd, possibly the young elk’s mother, would paw at the trap and rub her muzzle on the young elk’s face, trying to free the poor animal from this painful and obtrusive trap.
Rick Spowart assessed the situation and got the tranquilizer gun ready. It was obvious this elk could not eat or drink with this rat trap stuck on his face and he needed help. Estes Park Police Department Officer Gregg Filsinger arrived to help out. Rick aimed the tranquilizer gun shot the dart and waited for the drugs to work. It took two doses but the exhausted elk finally fell fast asleep and the rescuers got quickly to work.
After making sure he was sound asleep, Spowart removed the trap from the elk’s nose and mouth. He then gave the elk a ‘once over’ and then tagged his ears, because anytime an elk is tranquilized, for any reason, it must be identified to warn prospective hunters that a tranquilizer was used on the animal and advises them to call CDOW before possibly consuming the meat.
They gave the young bull a drug to counteract the tranquilizing drug and within 10 minutes, he began to stir. He slowly began to blink, and wiggle his nose a bit and then, he began to move. He lazily sat up, wavering back and forth ever so slightly. Within just a few minutes, he was trying to stand up and soon he was back on his feet, a bit wobbly perhaps, but ready to move on, FREE from the rat trap!
This story is a good reminder that we share our home with wildlife who are apt to get caught up in things like traps or fencing. Elk like to practice sparring with things like hammocks, volleyball nets, tire swings, anything that moves. Unfortunately, they often get caught up in them. CDOW is urging all residents to please be aware of this and bring items in or make them unaccessible to the animals to avoid any further encounters such as this. Lets all make sure to look over our yards and bring in anything that might pose an entrapment hazard for our resident elk with which we share our beautiful mountain community.