Elk NetworkMystery Elk Nearly Triggered ‘Ecological Disaster’

General | February 19, 2020

It’s a mystery novel with an ending yet to be written, but Montana wildlife officials say it could have led to a wildlife catastrophe.

“It wasn’t just an elk. It had the ability to be an ecological disaster,” Dave Holland, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) game warden captain, told the Great Falls Tribune.

Here’s what happened. A hunter shot a spike bull elk north of Choteau along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. When he took it to a processor, a worker asked why the spikes were spray-painted orange. The man didn’t notice because he is colorblind.

FWP launched an investigation that determined the elk was an exotic sub-species with roots in Washington. That’s right, somebody apparently captured the animal in Washington, transported it to Montana and released it. Along the way, someone also castrated the young bull.

“The importation of any animal brings with it a full community of parasites and pathogens,” explained Emily Almberg, FWP disease ecologist, told the Great Falls Tribune. “Some things might be pretty benign, but there are things that we worry about that might be difficult to detect just by looking at an animal.”

Officials know that somebody knows exactly where the elk came from and who released it in Montana. If you have any information, call 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668). A reward may be available.

(Photo source: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)