Wildlife Officers Remove Tire That Was Around Elk's Neck for 2 Years

They aren't exactly sure how it got there.

an elk with a tire around its neck
Trail camera photo from July 12, 2020, near Conifer, Colorado.

Dan Jaynes

For more than two years, an elk has been roaming the Colorado wilderness with a tire around its neck. Although wildlife officials aren’t sure how it got there, they finally were able to take it off.

The young bull elk was first spotted by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officer in July 2019 who was surveying the population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the Mount Evans Wilderness, about 40 miles west of Denver, according to a CPW release. At the time, the elk appeared to be about 2-3 years old.

“Being up in the wilderness, we didn’t really expect to be able to get our hands on the elk just because of the proximity or the distance away from civilization,” CPW officer Scott Murdoch said in a statement. “It is harder to get the further they are back in there and usually the further these elk are away from people, the wilder they act. That certainly played true the last couple of years, this elk was difficult to find, and harder to get close to.”

There were just a few sightings of the elk over the past couple of years—three were on trail cameras and only two were in person. One was several miles away through a scope and another was behind a home, Murdoch said. The elk traveled back and forth between Park and Jefferson counties.

Although the elk was acting normally, officials were afraid that he could get entangled with another animal or debris so they had been on the lookout and had released updates on the elk, hoping for sightings.

Finally Successful

Last weekend they received a tip from someone in Pine, Colorado, that the elk had been spotted. Murdoch and CPW officer Dawson Swanson arrived to find the animal in a herd of about 40 other elk.

They were able to safely tranquilize the elk and not-so-easily remove the tire. They had to cut off the bull’s antlers in order to remove the tire.

“It was tight removing it,” Murdoch said. “It was not easy for sure, we had to move it just right to get it off because we weren’t able to cut the steel in the bead of the tire. Fortunately, the bull’s neck still had a little room to move.”

They hadn’t planned on removing his antlers.

“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,” Murdoch said.

They determined the bull to be about 4 1/2 years old, weighing more than 600 pounds. Officials estimate the tire was filled with about 10 pounds of pine needles and dirt and that the bull dropped about 35 pounds when the tire and the antlers were removed.

They were surprised that the animal’s neck wasn’t in worse condition.

“The hair was rubbed off a little bit, there was one small open wound maybe the size of a nickel or quarter, but other than that it looked really good,” Murdoch said. “I was actually quite shocked to see how good it looked.”

The bull was back up on his feet in just a few minutes after he was injected with a drug to reverse the effects of sedation.

Mystery and a Happy Ending

Wildlife officers Scott Murdoch (left) and Dawson Swanson (right) hold up the tire that was on the elk
Wildlife officers Scott Murdoch (left) and Dawson Swanson (right) hold up the tire that was on the elk.

Pat Hemstreet

This was the fourth time in the last week officials had tried to tranquilize the elk to remove the tire. They ran into several roadblocks in their other attempts including too many elk in the way.

“Tranquilizer equipment is a relatively short-range tool and given the number of other elk moving together along with other environmental factors, you really need to have things go in your favor to have a shot or opportunity pan out,” Swanson said. 

Officials aren’t sure how the bull managed to get the tire around its neck, but it happened when it was young before it had antlers.

“It’s anybody’s guess how it actually got on there. It could’ve been a big stack of tires,” Murdoch said. “I’ve seen it where people feed animals and animals come in and put their heads in things. I’ve had deer with buckets around their necks because people are artificially feeding animals.”

Now that the elk is safe, wildlife officials hope that people will realize that animals can get into all kinds of things and will clean up their properties to prevent these kinds of situations.

“I’ve seen everything from swing sets, basketball hoops and tomato cages and hammocks, tires, trash can lids, you name it, I’ve seen it around these animal’s necks,” Murdoch said.

“It’s a good reminder if you live where wildlife live that you should go walk around your property, clean things up and try to take down any kind of obstacle that can impede wildlife movement or entangle them."

The drama has also played out on social media as fans have followed along on the CPW social media pages.

One commenter applauded the happy ending on Facebook, saying, "So happy for him. Hope his friends recognize him."

View Article Sources
  1. "Wildlife Officers Remove Tire That Was Around a Bull Elk's Neck for Over Two Years." Colorado Parks & Wildlife, 2021.

  2. "Mount Evans Wilderness." United States Department of Agriculture.