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Elk with tire stuck around its neck for years finally freed

Wildlife officers in Colorado had been trying to track down the elk for two years.

This screenshot came from trail camera footage captured in June 2020. 
Video screenshot of Dan Jaynes trailcam by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Over the weekend, a bull elk in Colorado had a great weight taken away. The 600-pound (272-kilogram), 4.5-year-old elk had been wearing a tire around its neck for at least two years. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers finally caught up to the animal, tranquilized it and removed the tire.

The officers had to cut off the elk's antlers to get the tire off, but that's not as horrifying as it sounds. Bull elks shed their antlers annually, so this one will just be ahead of the curve. 

"We would have preferred to cut the tire and leave the antlers for his rutting activity, but the situation was dynamic and we had to just get the tire off in any way possible," wildlife officer Scott Murdoch said in a statement on Monday.

Thanks to an alert from a local resident, the officers swung into action on Saturday and tracked the bull to where it was hanging out with a herd of about 40 animals.    

The successful attempt came after a series of other tries. It took a few minutes to free the elk from its burden, reverse the sedation from the tranquilizer and let it rejoin its herd. The tire was full of wet pine needles and dirt, so the elk should be feeling quite a bit lighter after the removal.   

The operation was a long time in coming. The elk first came to the attention of Colorado Parks and Wildlife back in mid-2019. A 2020 video detailed the elk's predicament and efforts to track it down.  

The officers reported the elk was in surprisingly good condition, with a little hair rubbed off and a small wound on its neck. "I was actually quite shocked to see how good it looked," Murdoch said.  

Don't worry. This Colorado bull elk was tranquilized so wildlife officers could remove the tire around its neck. It made it through the ordeal.

Pat Hemstreet

The elk isn't the only wild animal to end up in a difficult situation. The agency said it has seen elk, moose, deer and bears entangled in everything from hammocks to holiday lighting to laundry baskets.  

"The saga of this bull elk highlights the need for residents to live responsibly with wildlife in mind," Colorado Parks and Wildlife said. "That includes keeping your property free of obstacles that wildlife can get tangled in or injured by."