Dogs shot after attack on elk
A state wildlife officer said he was forced to shoot two dogs that put a cow elk “through hell” Saturday morning on the outskirts of Aspen.
Kevin Wright of the Colorado Division of Wildlife said the two dogs – both of them huskies or husky mix – chased the elk on the western side of Shadow Mountain. Officers from the Aspen Police Department, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and wildlife division responded when a witness reported the harassment at 10:48 a.m.
Wright climbed the steep slopes, guided by a spotter using binoculars at the Castle Ridge apartments, and tried to save the elk. The elk fell down the mountain to an area close to him and, while down, was attacked again by the dogs.
Wright said he attempted to chase the dogs away but they kept clawing and biting the animal.
“I had no choice. I had to shoot the dogs,” Wright said.
Another officer had to shoot the elk, which Wright said was “barely alive” by the time they got to it. The incident was witnessed by officers from other agencies.
The dogs were owned by two roommates who live in Aspen. Their names weren’t released because the investigation is ongoing.
Wright followed the trail of the animals through the brush and found blood and clumps of hair from the elk. By the time it died, the elk’s lower, left-front leg was chewed off. A gash was torn in its underbelly by the udder.
The fatal chase apparently started where the elk was bedded down, about halfway up Shadow Mountain
“The elk went through hell, there’s no doubt about it,” said Wright.
His assessment was backed by a report filed by Aspen Community Safety Officer Rick Magnuson, who responded separately from Wright and also climbed the slope to try to save the elk.
Magnuson said he saw the dogs chase the elk and at one point corner it. The elk turned and faced them in defense.
“I could hear the elk crying in pain as the dogs howled and barked,” Magnuson’s report said.
The dogs were quicker than the elk and got behind it and bit at its back legs. Magnuson described the dogs as unleashing a “relentless attack.” Eventually the elk tumbled several yards down the slope to Wright’s position.
Deputy Brady Jax, the spotter, also observed the dogs attack the elk while it was down, just before Wright was forced to shoot.
@ATD Sub heds:Charges contemplated
@ATD body copy: Wright has spent 19 years with the wildlife division, most of them as the officer for the Aspen district. He said this is the first time he ever had to shoot a dog.
“I feel bad. I don’t like being put in this position,” he said. Wright sounded upset while talking about the incident. He was described as shaken in a deputy’s report.
Wright said he wasn’t sure yet if he would charge the dog owners for letting their animals harass wildlife. He said they have suffered the ultimate penalty.
On the other hand, evidence suggests that those dogs were previously harassing wildlife on Shadow Mountain, he said. Deputy Anne Stephenson, a patrol supervisor, said Sunday that she was aware of three other incidents where dogs matching the description of those shot on Saturday were spotted roaming the mountain and harassing wildlife.
The dogs’ final act was also severe enough to potentially warrant tickets for the owners, said Wright.
“There’s a common misperception of ‘how can an animal bring down an elk?'” said Wright. In this case, there was more than one dog. Plus the elk was chased across terrain that included pockets of deep snow where it would post-hole while the dogs didn’t break through.
Wright said he hopes the incident can be used to educate other dog owners that they can be ticketed for letting their pets harass wildlife and that their dogs could be shot.
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