Stranded Elk Destroyed by DWR in Tough Decision
|These bull elk were trapped on a ledge and were straving to death. Despite efforts by wildlife officials to save them they had to be destroyed.|
Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) biologists responded Wednesday and Thursday to a report of five bull elk stranded on a ledge in Price Canyon. The bulls were on the Castle Gate formation high above the Price River Water Treatment Plant. A sportsman out collecting shed antlers saw the bulls and reported the situation to the DWR.
During the initial investigation on Wednesday, it was discovered that the bulls had worked their way down through a series of ledges onto a small bench. After finishing off the available forage, the elk were unable to ascend the steep stair-step of ledges back to the top. The bulls became trapped between the ledges above and a sheer drop-off.
The physical condition of the bulls was an immediate concern. Five DWR personnel backpacked alfalfa pellets to the immediate vicinity, but were unable to get close enough to the elk to administer relief.
"From our vantage point, you could count their ribs," remarked Dave Rich of the DWR, who helped with the intended rescue effort. "They were in very poor shape."
Besides the five bulls reported, the rescue team observed two dead bulls, which had already starved to death.
Returning on Thursday, rescue workers carrying tools and explosives, attempted to access the bench from above, and blast an escape route, which would allow the elk to climb out. However, due to the height and thickness of the ledge above the bulls, the plan was abandoned.
"We also considered using a helicopter to immobilize and lower the bulls to freedom," stated Brad Crompton, DWR biologist for the Price area. "But there wasn't enough room to safely fly or land a helicopter. The sheer cliffs presented a very dangerous situation. One of the bulls had somehow made his way out onto a very precarious point, only about 10 feet by 15 feet. We watched him stand on this tiny shelf with nowhere to go. There was about 100 feet of ledge above him and a 100-foot vertical drop to the hillside below."
After considering all possible means of rescuing the stranded bulls, and considering their depleted physical condition, Director Miles Moretti made the decision to humanely dispatch the animals. This was done late Thursday afternoon.
When the warm season shows up DWR biologists will return to the area to assess whether something can be done to keep elk from becoming stranded on this ledge in the future.