May 20, 2022

Botu Linum

The Car & Automotive Devotees

Take care with fall cleanup | News

3 min read

It was an amazing story the one about the bull elk with a tire around its neck. Perhaps you’ve heard it by now: The 600-pound animal was tranquilized by wildlife officials last weekend, a mile south of Pine Junction (on the Front Range), and the tire was removed.

The elk had been lugging its rubber appendage, full of 10-pounds’ worth of debris and sand, for more than two years; wildlife officers had tried three times prior to last weekend to dart the animal and remove the tire.

“Tranquilizer equipment is a relatively short-range tool, and given the number of other elk moving together” — this elk was one of a herd of about 40  — “along with other environmental factors, you really need to have things go in your favor to have a shot or opportunity pan out,” CPW officer Dawson Swanson said. “I was able to get within range a few times that evening, however, other branches or elk blocked my opportunities.”

Eventually, Swanson hit the bull with a dart, and tracked it into thick timber with the rest of the herd. He had to work fast: the bull was in strong physical condition due to the rut, “and the tranquilizer effectiveness was minimized.” With the help of CPW colleague Scott Murdoch, the men were able to pull the tire off the bull’s neck — but had to remove its antlers in the process. “We would have preferred to cut the tire and leave the antlers for his rutting activity, but the situation was dynamic and we just had to get the tire off in any way possible,” Murdoch explained.

The extraordinary rescue story quickly ping-ponged across urban corridors — the New York Times and the Washington Post both picked it up. But it is especially relevant here, in Colorado’s mountains. Obviously, an elk should never have had a tire around its neck in the first place. Nor should ungulates’ antlers get entangled in people’s hammocks, yet the latter “is kind of common across Colorado,” CPW’s public information officer John Livingston said. So is entanglement in fences, Livingston said, and four-legged creatures are not the only ones. “We’ve seen a lot of birds, such as owls, getting caught up in fencing at night.” 

“Animals are curious, just like us,” Livingston added. “They go to check something out,” and they can get trapped. “We don’t know where this elk picked up this tire, but if you have spare tires taking up space, take them to a tire shop and have them recycled. It’s the right thing not only for wildlife, but the environment too.”

If you see an animal entangled in wires — Christmas lights prove to be a common snare each winter — “call your local wildlife office,” Livingston added. “If it’s the weekend, and the office is closed, call the state patrol, and they’ll get in touch with our wildlife officers.”

Ungulates are not the only animals that pay a big price for human carelessness this time of year. So do black bears.

“It’s a pretty critical time for them,” said Jamin Griggs, senior wildlife biologist for CPW’s Southwest region. “They’re at the tail end of hyperphagia” — the period before denning when bears eat pretty much round the clock — “and they’re feeding voraciously. It’s a good time to pick up any fallen fruit from the ground, if you have fruit trees on your property. Be mindful of compost piles; secure a fence around them.”

Take down bird feeders at night too; bring dog food bags (and dog dishes) inside; and don’t take the trash out until trash day, unless you can store it in a bear-proof container.

The tale of the elk’s tire-extraction “was pretty remarkable,” Griggs said. “That was a heavy object to carry around for all that time. I’m sure that elk is very relieved to have it off. I’ve heard of bears with their heads stuck in buckets, walking around,” he added. “But it’s easier to remove those, because the bear can’t see you.”