Elk tangled in trash as they wait for their racks to drop

A bull elk similar to this was reported sporting fence wire and a fence post on its antlers in Somenos Road field.  - Andrew Leong/file
A bull elk similar to this was reported sporting fence wire and a fence post on its antlers in Somenos Road field.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Two bull elk sporting large pieces of garbage in their antlers are hanging out in a Somenos Road field trying to live normal lives.

But Sandra Mathews fears that isn’t easy, given the size of stuff in their racks.

She spoke with conservation officers earlier this week regarding potential problems — one Roosevelt elk has fence wire and a fence post tangled in its horns; the other is wearing a big, plastic bag on its head.

“A fence post stuck on your head isn’t fun,” she told the News Leader Pictorial this morning, “especially when you want to eat, or go through trees.”

The elk tangled in wire and the post “must back up to eat,” she noted.

But officers said it’s best to wait about two weeks for those racks to drop, rather than doing a traumatic tranquilizing, then removing the debris.

“Darting them just puts them under duress,” said conservation spokesman Dave Karn, “it can kill them, so having them go hungry might be preferable.”

Cowichan CO Scott Norris — who visited the Somenos scene — agreed, noting elusive elk are hard to dart “unless they’re hung up.

Norris sympathized with the animals hampered by the rack refuse.

“But these animals are still able to feed themselves. We’d rather not risk drugging them and killing them, but we are concerned when there’s stuff around an animal’s neck.”

Elk could die from stress of interference from foreign objects, being captured, then having dope introduced to their systems, Norris explained.

Officers learned of the wire-and-post draped elk about a week ago. The one with the white feed sack appeared in mid-December, he explained.

Mathews remained worried.

“The conservation officers said they’d come out here if the elk get hooked on something, otherwise they’ll wait until the antlers fall off in another one to 1½ weeks.”

Again, she had concerns with that answer.

“These elk are quite vulnerable to dogs in our area.”

One nine-member herd in her area is part of a larger group of some 21 elk, she said of valley elk largely threatened by ongoing poaching.

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