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Herd Rejects Bull Elk Due To Plastic Wrapped Around Antlers

Ehrick Burnl Photography

In December, the Swaner Preserve live video camera captured images of an elk being ostracized by the herd due to a piece of black mesh stuck on his antlers. In the weeks since they first observed the herd behavior, lots of people have kept close tabs on the health and welfare of this bull elk. Carolyn Murray has this report:

Executive Director of the Swaner Preserve and Eco Center, Nell Larson said they’ve been watching this bull trying to figure out what could be done to help the animal.

“One of the bull elk in the herd out on the preserve had this huge piece of black fabric or mesh or something stuck to it’s antlers. And, then we also started receiving a ton of concern from the community. From our perspective, we had two main concerns. One was socialization with the herd and the other one was could it eat and graze effectively. When we first started watching this, we realized the herd was giving a little bit of distance to this bull elk that had this huge black wrapping on its antlers. Over time, the herd got used to it and this bull that has the black material on its antlers is still with the rest of the herd. So, that’s fine."

Larson said thanks to a volunteer, they were able to identify that the bull could still graze.

“We were trying to find out if the elk was able to eat effectively. We spoke with one of our volunteers on the south side of the preserve, Margaret Sloan. So, she was able to break out her birding gear and her scope and take a look and see it was able to graze. And so, that kind of put that concern to rest as well.”

Many locals and visitors enjoy watching the herd especially through the winter months when they range throughout the basin, Round Valley and the open space along 224. Larson said they were overwhelmed with concerned citizens who called Swaner Eco Center expressing worry over the bull and whether something should be done to help the animal.

“We called the Division of Wildlife Resources as well and they came out and they took a look. And, we were both kind of, of the same mind that tranquilizing it to get this wrapping thing off the antlers would just cause undue stress. You know it was unnecessary at this point because these antlers were going to drop in a couple of months anyway. WE were just weighing the pros and cons you know, like, does this bull elk have to put up with it flapping in it’s eyes for the next two months or does it have to deal with the ramifications and the stress of being tranquilized."

There are specific rules for the collection of antlers if it’s done before April 15th. The Division of Wildlife Resources Antler Gathering Ethics Course gives certification to those who want to collect the shed antlers.

“And, that’s important because this is a really tough time of year for the ungulates in Utah. There’s a lot of snow on the ground. They’re really low on their reserves. So, you learn about things like the impact you might have if you disturbed a herd and forced them to run away so you could go in and collect their antlers and things like that. The other thing to know if you need prior permission if you’re going to be collecting sheds on private property.”

Photos can be found on KPCW.org

Live links can be found at https://www.swanerecocenter.org/preserve-webcam

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