Fate of dead Samson elk creates confusion
A Basalt woman is worried about what happened to a large elk that was hit and killed by a car on Highway 82 recently, although officials say the incident was handled by the book.Debbie Farrell said this week she is concerned authorities mishandled the animal. She reported seeing a man she thought might have been a law enforcement officer hold up the head of the dead elk in a triumphant fashion.A Colorado Division of Wildlife official said the animal was handled according to DOW policies, and nothing improper took place.Farrell, owner of the Tail Waggers pet grooming business in the Aspen Business Center, was driving upvalley from Basalt the morning of Nov. 17 when she noticed several vehicles stopped along the highway.The vehicles were parked to the right side of the upvalley lane, near the point in Snowmass Canyon where there is a turnaround ramp for eastbound motorists. She said she saw several men working on “a really huge elk” carcass on the hillside just above the highway. “It was at least a seven-point elk, maybe eight-point,” she said. “It was the biggest elk I’d ever seen.” In her brief glance at the hillside, Farrell said, she thought she saw one of the men sever the animal’s head and hold it aloft in triumph.The DOW’s Randy Hampton said Monday that Farrell’s story was mostly correct, but he disputed the “triumphant” aspect.Hampton said the elk, which was a “six-by-six” – meaning it had six antler points on each side of its rack – was hit by a car about 7 a.m. that day.An elk of that size falls under Colorado’s Samson Law and requires special treatment, according to Hampton. The law to protect trophy-sized deer and elk followed a poaching incident in the Estes Park area involving the out-of-season killing of a well-known bull elk affectionately named Samson.Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy John Armstrong, who responded to a call about an elk “wounded and suffering” on the highway, said “a group of local boys … downvalley commuting construction workers” had already begun to butcher the elk along the roadside when he arrived, an act Armstrong characterized as “perfectly legal” under Colorado law.The men wanted to keep the head and antlers, but Armstrong told them that because the elk was trophy-sized, it had to be turned over to the DOW. The agency either destroys the rack or, in some cases, auctions off the antlers at a special sale each February in Hugo.Armstrong took the animal’s head after it was severed by the unnamed passers-by and delivered it to DOW officer Kevin Wright.Hampton said the Samson Law was created in part to prevent motorists from using their cars to kill, then claim, trophy-sized elk and deer.As for anyone holding the head aloft, Hampton said it is more likely that Farrell saw Armstrong hoist the head onto his back to carry it to his patrol car for delivery to the DOW. Armstrong said he “never saw anyone raise it above their head” in any way.According to Hampton, the husband of the woman who hit the elk later called the DOW office in Glenwood Springs to see if he could claim the rack as “some compensation for the fact that they wrecked their car” when it collided with the large elk. The request was denied.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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