DOW keeps watch on injured elk in Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Colorado Division of Wildlife has been monitoring a 6-point bull elk with a broken hind leg that has been seen in the Roaring Fork River behind Safeway in Glenwood Springs for about a week.
For now, that is the most DOW officers can do, according to DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.
“These animals have to stand. You can’t do anything with a broken leg on these animals. You can’t set a broken leg, so there is no opportunity to do anything other than hope that the animal can make it,” Hampton said.
However, if the situation appears to get worse and the animal is considered to be suffering and is determined to not likely improve, or if the animal becomes aggressive toward people, Hampton said that the DOW would put the animal down.
“We don’t want the animal to suffer,” Hampton said. “If it’s a significant injury, we may end up doing that.”
Capturing the animal for rehabilitation is not as easy an option and could potentially do more harm than good. Rehabilitation instances are “few and far between,” according to Hampton.
“The problem with trying to capture the animal is that the animal has to be tranquilized and that stresses the animal,” Hampton said. “They could end up running into traffic or falling in the river and drowning.”
Hampton indicated that DOW officers deal with a host of unknowns that could potentially put the animal in more danger when trying to capture it for rehabilitation. Hampton also said that a captured animal has only a 10 percent chance of returning to the wild.
The best opportunity the elk has for a full recovery, even if that means losing the injured leg, is for people to let it be. Hampton said that people should refrain from approaching and trying to help the animal, saying that the animal needs minimal stress for a better recovery.
“It adds to the stress of the animal when people try to approach it,” Hampton said. “And the injured animal can be much more aggressive toward people because it is stressed. If we leave it alone we are hopeful that it can survive.”
In 2008, a deer that was hit by a vehicle on Highway 82 and left alone by the DOW got up and walked away nearly 24 hours after the accident, Hampton said.
How the elk was injured was unknown.
“The bottom line is, if people leave this animal alone that is its best shot at survival,” Hampton said.
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