Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Rare Encounter with Nature

On Saturday, we took the kids to their 4-H shooting sports meeting at the range, and then went to check on our newly weaned calves.  That afternoon, we were driving back down our road when all of the sudden we saw a huge traffic jam in front of our house and two sheriffs directing traffic!  We could barely turn up the driveway for all of the cars parked in front of the house.  There must have been 30 people standing at the fence taking pictures.

Here's what was causing all of the ruckus in the pasture in front of our house:

As it turns out, this old bull elk was just standing in my kids' crawdad fishing hole for hours.  It was evident that he wasn't doing well because he was quite thin.  But upon closer examination, we saw this:

If you look closely, you'll see that he has an antler tine lodged into his skull next to his ear.  There's no doubt that it got shoved into his head during a fight with another bull.  The bulls are in rut this time of year, and they battle other males in order to take possession of their harem of cows. 

What I'm not sure of is whether or not this is his own antler tine. He's missing one on that side of his rack as seen below. It could have been broken off in battle and lodged into the skull by one forceful blow of the other elk, or maybe not.  It would make a great crime scene investigation mystery.

One thing's for certain, this guy was in an awful lot of pain.  He might have been battling infection, and fever because he kept laying down in the water.  It was clear that he wasn't going to make it much longer.

As some people would drive off, others would come and fill their places.  Two Game and Fish Officials were called to the scene.  Unfortunately for them, it was a no-win situation.  Normally, they would just let nature take its course, and not intervene, but the swarms of people calling for them to do something made it a public relations nightmare.

This happens from time to time in nature, but it rarely occurs in the public eye.  The Game and Fish went above and beyond in this situation, and they did a great job.  They chose to tranquilize the elk because they couldn't shoot it with the crowd of people around. Then they loaded it up in the back of their truck and removed it from public view to end its suffering.

Elk are such beautiful and majestic creatures that folks can't help but stop in their tracks when they have the opportunity to see one up close.  The solemness of the occasion just underscored the fragility of life, and the ruggedness of nature.  Even in the face of death, the bull stood dignified and quiet.

It was a day that we won't soon forget.


  1. I'm glad they cared enough to remove him from the crowd. Elk are beautiful creatures.
    thanks for sharing.

  2. What a story! Elks are a favorite sighting for us too, when we are out that direction.