Elk moving onto Rocky Mountain roads
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Elk are not yet in full spring migration, but the animals are moving and that can cause problems, say Colorado Division of Wildlife officials.
On a recent Friday morning, Pitkin County Sheriff’s units responded to a call of an injured elk in the downvalley lane of U.S. 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, said 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, 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.”
“There are lots of three-legged deer and elk running around out there,” he added.
Wright checked the animal later it was shooed off the highway and said it was in better shape.
With Daylight Savings Time in effect, drivers commuting during hours that are usually dark are driving in dusk. And wildlife 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.
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, wildlife officers say.
“People are in too much of a hurry and need to slow down,” Wright said.