Curious onlookers a threat to injured elk cow in Vail

Police and wildlife officials are asking people to leave this injured cow elk alone. People have been approaching and petting it. Some have even put their arms around it and hugged it to have their photos taken. Don't do that. If the elk injures someone, it will have to be killed.
Photo by Theresa P./Special to the Daily |

VAIL — An injured elk near East Vail will heal faster if you leave it alone, state wildlife officials say.

People have been approaching, feeding and harassing an injured cow elk grazing in a field near East Vail, said officers with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Knock it off, they said.

Local police and state wildlife officers have received reports that large crowds are walking up to the animal. A few people have put their arms around the animal’s neck as they pose for pictures.

That’s a monumentally bad idea, they said.

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“If the elk gets aggressive and hurts someone it’ll have to be put down,” said Bill Andree, a local officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “For the sake of a picture, they’re putting this elk’s life in danger.”

It’s been up there since February, living under an Interstate 70 overpass. In the past three weeks, it started wandering around the neighborhood, Andree said.

“It is not only extremely irresponsible and unethical to harass and feed wildlife, it is also illegal and they will be fined if caught,” said Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “These people are essentially condemning the animal to death and putting our officers in the position of having to carry out the sentence.”

It’s not clear how it was injured, but it’s limping on its right rear leg. That could be something as simple as getting it twisted trying to jump a fence to avoid a motor vehicle on a road, Andree said.

No use for humans

Velarde warned that despite initial appearances, wild animals instinctively have little tolerance for humans. He said it’s only a matter of time before the cow elk becomes agitated to the point of charging and injuring a person who gets too close.

Human health and safety is a priority, and animals that injure a human are often killed by wildlife officers out of an abundance of caution, regardless of the circumstances, Velarde said.

The Vail Police Department loves you and wants what’s best for you, and what’s best is to leave that elk alone.

“The other concern is that it gets so used to being around people that we have an injury or a car crash,” said Luke Causey, of the Vail Police Department.


Watch wildlife from a distance with binoculars, a camera or spotting scope, say wildlife officers.

In addition, keep your dogs on leashes in areas where encounters with wildlife are likely. Dogs are a serious threat to wild animals, and any law enforcement official is authorized to use lethal force to stop a dog that is chasing or injuring wildlife, wildlife officers said.

“If a wild animal reacts to you or your dog, you are too close,” said Velarde. “Keep your distance, keep dogs on a leash and remember to use good judgment around wildlife.”

Parks and Wildlife officers are asking people to leave this animal alone immediately.

“We continuously provide guidance to the public about the best way to enjoy wildlife, and this is definitely not the way to do it,” Velarde said.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife advises the public to report illegal activity to the nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office, State Patrol or call Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648 if you wish to remain anonymous. Rewards may be available if the report leads to a citation.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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