Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Steamboat Springs Wildlife officials are hoping an elk's decision to make a mountainside condominium complex his home is temporary.
Bryan Koppe lives in the complex and noticed the elk Tuesday as he looked down from his balcony.
"You look to the left, and there was a big elk head," Koppe said.
The bull elk has camped out in back of the complex, next to a busy street, since Monday, said Libbie Miller of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The elk was basking in the sun on a ground floor condo patio Tuesday. By Wednesday he had moved closer to the street and was lying under a tree, nibbling on grass and tree branches.
The elk is drawing a crowd. Shuttle buses have been stopping next to the condo so people can snap photos. Traffic gets backed up as people try to get close to the animal to take a photo.
This concerns Miller, and it prompted a woman to call police Tuesday to report the elk.
"We understand that it's a unique thing for a lot of people ... but we really want to discourage people from stopping," Miller said.
Miller said it is not uncommon for wildlife to wander into town, but having a bull elk camped out in such a busy area makes this an unusual situation. Heavy snows may have caused the elk to take shelter in Steamboat, she said.
"The hard thing is, we've had so much snow that there are many (elk) here to find a place to forage ... that doesn't have six feet or eight feet of snow," she said.
The elk appears to be healthy, considering the weather conditions elk have endured this winter, she said.
The elk likely wandered down from the mountains, and he does not seem to mind the attention.
"If they're not hurt, and they're not hurting anything, we just let them hang out and do their thing," Miller said.
If the elk does not leave in the next couple of days, the DOW likely will consult a wildlife rehabilitation specialist.
Tranquilizing the animal is not preferred because it often can cause injury or stress.
Rehabilitation specialists are approved to feed wildlife, and a little energy might be just what this elk needs to return to the wilderness, Miller said.