MYNORTHWEST LIFESTYLE

Elk spotted with a tire on its antler: Why it’s likely not in danger

Feb 18, 2024, 7:29 PM | Updated: Mar 29, 2024, 1:49 pm

Late last month, reports of an elk with a tire stuck on its antlers in Maple Valley began to surface.

As Christian Duthweiler relayed to KIRO Newsradio and MyNorthwest, he spotted the animal with the tire on its antlers at Lake Wilderness Park in Maple Valley on Jan. 26.

When he called the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), it appears Duthweiler was not the first person to call about the animal. The WDFW employee said they didn’t believe the elk was in any immediate danger as elk usually lose their antlers in February anyway.

MyNorthwest reached out to WDFW and the message delivered from that office was similar to the one Duthweiler heard.

WDFW Communications Manager Chase Gunnell said in email late last month that they were aware of the animal’s predicament their office has received “sporadic calls about it to WDFW’s King County wildlife conflict specialist and WDFW Police detachment.”

Gunnell added the elk had been carrying the extra item for some time and still eating normally.

“The bull has apparently been carrying the tire for at least several weeks, and from the reports and our observations, remains mobile, is feeding regularly, and is in good health with no noticeable impact on body condition,” Gunnell wrote.

Given the animal appears to be in good shape and the biology of elk and when they drop their antlers each year, the plan was to leave it alone.

“Because this bull elk remains in apparent good health, and because elk begin to drop their antlers in February, we have not attempted to capture it,” Gunnell explained to MyNorthwest. “We will continue to monitor the animal and respond to reports as capacity allows. Hopefully the elk will drop its antlers — and the tire — soon.”

These types of events are fairly common

Gunnell explained other animals also experience this same issue and other items have get stuck around their antlers.

“Incidents like this one happen each fall and early-winter in Washington with bull elk and buck deer; especially when they are more active during their fall breeding seasons, known as the rut,” Gunnell noted. “Other examples include tire swings, soccer nets, clotheslines, and garden fencing wrapped up in their antlers. Unless the debris is likely to cause serious harm or mortality, we typically do not intervene, as capturing and handling these large wild animals can cause them stress and harm.”

Gunnell suggested that people who witness wildlife in distress with the state or who may be injured are encouraged to report them through the WDFW website.

If a resident senses an immediate public safety issue, wildlife violation, or an injured or dangerous animal, they are asked to call the WDFW Enforcement office at 360-902-2936, email them enforcement-web@dfw.wa.gov, or simply call 911.

Steve Coogan is the lead editor of MyNorthwest. You can read more of his stories here. Follow Steve on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here.

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