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Sick elk caused public safety concern

Mar 06, 2023 09:41AM ● By Alisha Copfer

A sick elk in Morgan got too close to the freeway, putting the public at risk. Photo by Jason McGrew

An unusual encounter with a large bull elk occurred on Friday, Feb. 24. The elk had wandered near the I-84 freeway by the Peterson exit, near Morgan. The Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) arrived on scene at 4:49 p.m. to assess the situation. They found that the animal was emaciated, there was a bit of foam coming from its mouth, and was overall sick. 

They attempted to coerce the animal from the side of the road. “We tried everything we could to move the animal,” said DWR Northern Region Outreach Manager Mark Hadley. He explained that those on-site attempted to use both cracker shells, which make a loud bang that is typically used to scare off wildlife, and bean bag shooters to coerce the bull elk to move away from the freeway.

“The elk would not move away from the freeway, which was very strange behavior,” said Hadley. When confronted with loud noises or the other efforts officials were using, most animals would move away from people. “When we got up there, we noticed that the animal was not behaving normally.”

The elk was obviously sick, and DWR was afraid that if they used a tranquilizer and attempted to move the animal, it would die. “We talked about using a tranquilizer, but it can be really hard on an animal’s system,” said Hadley.

They also are not allowed to carry the drugs in their vehicles and would have had to wait for them to be transported to the location. This may have caused the animal to move even closer to the high-speed traffic on the freeway.

“It became a public safety concern, so we had to take the animal,” Hadley said. “We simply can’t put people at risk.”

DWR was on site for about 50 minutes before euthanizing the elk and removing it from the scene.

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