Crews save 2 elk from pond; 2 others die
December 21, 2007
PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. ” Emergency crews who were “making things up as we went” saved two wild elk that were trapped in a frigid pond after breaking through the ice, but two others died.
The animals were spotted struggling in the pond on private land south of Pagosa Springs, 200 miles southwest of Denver, last weekend, Division of Wildlife officials said Friday.
An impromptu team of wildlife officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, police and search-and-rescue members pulled three cow elk out, but one was euthanized when it appeared it wouldn’t survive.
The fourth, a young bull, died before he could be rescued.
The elk apparently were walking toward open water on Dec. 15 when they broke through the ice, DOW spokesman Joe Lewandowski said.
It’s not clear who discovered them, but the State Patrol alerted DOW officer James Romero and emergency responders.
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“They were panicked and struggling, but appeared they had enough energy to last awhile,” Romero said.
Romero and volunteer firefighter Thad McKain donned ice rescue suits and rope tethers and crept out on the ice.
“Then we just started making things up as we went,” said Mike Reid, another DOW officer.
To Romero’s surprise, a cow elk swam up to him. He and McKain tied ropes around her and the rescuers pulled her ashore. The crew retrieved another elk the same way, but she dashed back into the water and had to be pulled out again.
By this time the young bull had died. Thinking the second cow elk had gone back to protect him, the crew dragged his body out.
The last elk fought her way back into the pond three times but eventually was brought to shore and hobbled.
The crew dried the elk, drove them to Forest Service land about 20 miles away and released them. One ” which had fought hardest against rescue ” charged the crew, grazing a rescuer as she reared and kicked, Lewandowski said, apparently protecting the other two.
She and another cow eventually left, but the third was never able to stay on her feet and a deputy euthanized her.
“It was frustrating to see, but the deputy made the right call,” Romero said.
Romero said that the other two elk appeared to recover.
“I think they had a pretty good chance,” he said.