On Saturday night, Patrick Hemstreet was in his home office in Pine, Colorado, checking his emails when his wife called him from upstairs, telling him to look out the front window. Among the pines and aspens, Mr. Hemstreet saw a herd of about 40 elk, including a large bull crowned with a rack of spiky wood.
“He was right there,” Mr. Hemstreet said. “Our friend with the tire around his neck.”
He immediately knew who to call.
For more than two years, residents of Pine, a small town about 30 miles southwest of Denver, have been sending reports to Colorado parks and wildlife authorities whenever they see a moose that has gone. stuck his head in a tire.
The tire slipped up the elk’s neck and got stuck there, locked in place as its antlers developed and branched. Wildlife authorities wanted to remove the tire and requested the public’s help in locating the elk.
Mr. Hemstreet, who moved to Pine about a year ago, was among those who had reported the elk to wildlife officials when he appeared in his surveillance camera footage, or when the spotted on his 10-acre property, mingling with a herd, grazing or fighting other bulls during rutting season.
But this time, with the momentum so close, it was different, Mr Hemstreet said in an interview on Tuesday.
Mr Hemstreet texted Dawson Swanson, a wildlife official who lives nearby. The two men had spoken of moose so often that Mr. Hemstreet did not have to specify what he was talking about.
“In my backyard now,” he wrote. “Easy shooting. “
Mr. Swanson replied seven minutes later, “On the way. “
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, part of the state’s natural resources department, said in a statement Monday that Mr Swanson had tranquilized the elk, which is 4.5 years old and weighing 600 pounds. He and another wildlife officer then sheared the antlers off the elk so the tire could be pulled over its head.
It was the fourth time in a week that wildlife officers attempted to tranquilize the bull, the department said. The process can be difficult because the tranquilizer equipment only works at close range, Mr Swanson said.
Wildlife officers had been searching for the elk since July 2019, when an officer spotted it while conducting a population survey of bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the Mount Evans Wilderness, a national forest area .
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said its officers have often seen animals trapped in hammocks, clotheslines, chicken feeders, laundry baskets, volleyball nets, “and yes, tires,” among other pitfalls of human civilization.
“We have probably tranquilized six to ten male moose and deer each year, from basketball hoops to trash cans,” Scott Murdoch, a wildlife official who helped remove the tire from the elk’s neck, said in an interview. . “It’s a fairly common practice for us to cut wood. “
How the momentum got its head through the tire in the first place has remained a mystery. The tire may have been part of some sort of feeder, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in its statement, although Mr Murdoch said it may have been used as a swing.
After the first sighting of the elk with the tire, it spent the next two years roaming between Park and Jefferson counties, disappearing for long periods of time, especially in winter, wildlife officials said.
In May and June, four attempts were made to catch the bull at Conifer, about eight miles north of Pine. Sightings resumed in September and early October near Pine as the bulls became more active during the rutting season, wildlife officials said.
“They walk around, eat and mate,” Mr. Hemstreet said. “He always stands out. He’s fat.”
Mr Hemstreet said the elk had appeared near his home at least nine times before making that last call on Saturday. The first time was about a year ago, when he got lost in range of his surveillance camera, he said.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw, so of course I posted it on social media, and started googling and found out that they had been looking for it for several years, ” did he declare. A neighbor gave him Mr. Swanson’s cell phone number.
After receiving the text from Mr Hemstreet on Saturday, Mr Swanson went to a neighbor’s yard to chase the herd, which had already started to move away. He took a hit with the tranquilizer, and the herd rushed up into the trees.
He and Mr. Hemstreet gave chase. It was black. Equipped with flashlights, they plunged into the dense and steeply sloping woods. It took 45 minutes to locate the elk and several other attempts to calm it down. (Elk metabolize tranquilizers faster during rutting season, Swanson said.)
Mr. Murdoch, the other wildlife manager, arrived to help. But a saw blade broke and its battery died, as police attempted to slice through the steel at the edge of the tire, which was the type used on small cars or trailers. Mr. Swanson and Mr. Murdoch, who were carrying a new saw blade and battery, decided the only way to remove the tire was to use the saw to chop the elk’s antlers.
More than two hours had passed since the first tranquilizer dart hit the momentum. The tire, filled with debris and dirt, was eventually crushed onto his head and he began to snap back into place after receiving a reversal dose. He stood, unsteady at first, and walked away in the dark, Mr Murdoch said.
In the days that followed, Mr. Hemstreet said he started looking into the hills, looking for momentum.
“I kept my eyes open, ”he said. “We want to make sure he does well. “