On the road again: Elk on the move | AspenTimes.com

On the road again: Elk on the move

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

Elk are not yet in full spring migration, but the animals are moving and that can cause problems, according to Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) officials.At 8 a.m. Friday morning, Pitkin County Sheriff’s units responded to a call of an injured elk in the downvalley lane of Highway 82. Officials closed all downvalley traffic briefly to shoo the animal out of harm’s way.The cow elk had an “old injury” to its right front leg, and was in bad shape, according to Ron Ryan, investigative coordinator for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s office.”It couldn’t move,” Ryan said. And when he and a sheriff’s deputy approached, trying to shoo the animal away from where it sat on a precarious median between lanes on the highway, it wouldn’t budge.Rere Baker, Pitkin County’s animal-control officer, and Kevin Wright, district wildlife manager with the DOW, were called on scene, and debated whether to put the animal down.”The animal had a lot of spunk in it left,” Wright said, saying the elk had an injured hoof and was in bad shape but not a loss. “I don’t put down animals because they have a hurt leg.””It’s officer discretion based on the injuries and how the animal is getting around” whether to put an animal down, according to Tyler Baskfield, communications manager with the DOW. “The main thing is we don’t want the animal suffering and we also don’t want to shoot an animal that could live.”DOW officers put animals down on a case-by-case basis, mostly when the animal can’t move or feed, Baskfield said.”There are lots of three-legged deer and elk running around out there,” Wright said, adding that many officers will see an injured animal and think it is in too much pain, but many live and thrive. Wright decided the elk could survive Friday morning, so county sheriff’s deputies stopped traffic and shooed the elk off the side of the road. Wright checked the animal later and said it was in better shape.DOW officials said elk are starting to go toward calving grounds or forage in areas where snow is melting, and motorists need to stay alert and drive slowly. After Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, drivers commuting during hours that are usually dark will be driving in dusk. And DOW officials see an increase in animal collisions after the clocks change because drivers aren’t used to slowing down for the many animals foraging in dusk light.”People are in too much of a hurry and need to slow down,” Wright said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.