For the last two years, a bull elk has been running around sporting a jaunty car tire around his neck. Yesterday night, Colorado Parks wildlife officers finally caught the elk and removed the tire by tranquilizing the elk and sawing his antlers off. Why did they have to saw off his antlers to get this tire off, and what do they have against an elk with a little bit of daring fashion sense? And all this during rutting season? What’s going on here? Well, I hunted down some answers for you.
First, let’s just clarify what the situation was here; there’s actually a very informative video made by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department that explains everything, in detail:
It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a young male elk seems to have stuck his head into a tire, perhaps looking for food, since sometimes people will leave food out for elk in places that require heads to be stuck into holes, and the tire slipped over his head and down onto his neck, forming the sweet double-belted radial necklace we see.
At some point, the elk grew antlers, which prevented the tire from being able to easily slide off. As a result, the elk has been walking around so accessorized for about two years.
Now, the tire has been filling with debris, getting heavy, and rubbing against his neck skin for some time, opening a possibility of injury or rubbing sores that could be infected, so the wildlife officers decided it would be best to get the tire off the elk’s neck, no matter how good he looks in it.
Doing this is not easy, of course; an elk is 600 pounds of animal that wants nothing to do with people, so even just finding the elk is tough.
Complicating things is the fact that it’s currently rutting season, the annual super-hot all-elk orgy, when all the elk bulls go crazy for all those sexy, horny-from-estrus cows out there, and the elk kind of go a little sex-crazy, males fighting with one another by ramming each other with their antlers and howling and something called “bugling,” which sounds like this:
Man, I should have stuck a NSFW tag on this, huh? Sorry to get all you lady elk so worked up, but I couldn’t help it. If that’s not enough to get you in the mood, check out what else I learned about elks during the rut:
Bulls wallow in mud to coast themselves with urine that acts as a “perfume” to attract cows. If mud is available, bulls also wallow during mating season. A thorough mud covering cools off an over-heated bull, spreads his scent evenly over has body, and makes him look even more imposing.
Whew. Is it getting hot in here? Daaaaamn.
Now, a more conspiracy-minded reporter might think that this whole thing was just an elaborate way for Big Wildlife Control to keep a sexy, sexy elk bull with a daring sense of style from getting any during rut. It seems like this one bull that dared to try to bring a little extra game to the rut by wearing a rakish tire was singled out for being too dangerously sexy, and so not only was the tire removed, but his antlers as well, all but guaranteeing that this horny yet now hornless young bull would not get any.
To get to the bottom of this, and find out an answer to the important question of why couldn’t they just cut the tire off, I reached out to Northeast Region Public Information Officer Jason Clay, who kindly filled me in on all of the sordid details.
The first question is, of course, why not just Sawzall that tire off? I bet a shocking number of our readers have cut through a tire with a reciprocating saw or a grinder—it can absolutely be done, so why not do that in this case?
Officer Clay had a pretty good reason why that was not done: how well do you think you could do if you had to Sawzall a tire off a 600 pound animal’s neck with only inches to spare, without cutting the animal? It’s not so easy.
It’s not like they didn’t try, either—they absolutely did try, as you can see in the picture above, but look how tight that tire is. Officer Clay said during rut the bulls get a little swollen with blood and horniness or whatever and are even bigger, so there was even less room. There was just no safe way to use that saw so close to the elk’s neck with enough margin of safety.
Plus, that elk isn’t dead, it’s tranquilized, and still breathing and moving a bit. As Officer Clay said, it was a “fluid and dynamic situation.”
So, the antlers had to go. The good news is that at this point in the year, the antlers are entirely dead tissue; earlier in the season, when the antlers are first growing, they’re vascular and would bleed and cause pain, but not at this point. This is like cutting toenails, not toes.
Sure, the lack of antlers means that our tire boy here isn’t going to be able to engage in any of the dominance displays with other males that would get him access to those sexy cows, but, according to Officer Clay, “this elk was still a bit young and not likely to miss much.”
It was the Wildlife Department’s opinion that this elk was not that likely to get laid, anyway. Harsh.
But look, here’s the good news: the antlers will grow back, and there’s going to be another rut next season, so I bet our boy will get some after all. Plus, all that time with the tire around his neck may have strengthened his neck muscles a bit, perhaps giving an advantage in those antler-locking mating displays?
I also asked how the other elk reacted to the tire—did they avoid the elk because of it, or did it make him more popular?
Officer Clay told me that from what they could tell, it wasn’t a hinderance to his popularity, as he was frequently seen around groups of other elk.
I also asked for the size and brand of tire, but that information wasn’t recorded, though I was told that later they may be near the tire again, and I could find out. I’ll update if I get this crucial information.
Overall, I don’t think this was a deliberate effort to cock-block an elk that dared to have a sense of fashion, and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department does not appear threatened by the raw, humid style and sexuality of this, or any elk, at least not currently.
I hope this clears things up.
UPDATE: Officer Clay got back to me about the brand of tire:
It’s a Corestone! Might be a trailer tire. Now we know.