A cow elk confronts two dogs that have gotten too close to her and her calves in Rita Valentine Park. The elk was tranquilized Thursday and relocated to an area near the Flat Tops.

Courtesy/Hugh Alexander

A cow elk confronts two dogs that have gotten too close to her and her calves in Rita Valentine Park. The elk was tranquilized Thursday and relocated to an area near the Flat Tops.

Aggressive cow elk relocated to Flat Tops as search continues for her calf


— An aggressive cow elk that spent the last week defending her young near a series of popular trails in Steamboat Springs was successfully tranquilized Thursday morning and relocated to a better home near the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers still were trying Thursday afternoon to also capture and relocate the elk's newborn calf or calves.

"We're going to continue to monitor out there and hopefully capture it," Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said.

He said there have been conflicting reports as to whether the elk has one or two calves.

Wildlife officials have only confirmed a sighting of one after an extensive search of the area.

The calf was on the M&H property near where Hilltop Parkway makes a hairpin turn near Rita Valentine Park.

Haskins said anyone who sees the unaccompanied calf should call Parks and Wildlife at 970-870-2197 or 970-879-1090.

If the calf is captured, it would be taken to a local rehabilitation center.

"The calf will be all right for a couple days," Haskins said. "But it's obviously still young. It's still nursing. It's also vulnerable now."

Because of this, wildlife officials are reminding trail users with dogs to follow the leash law and not let dogs run unattended in the area.

All of the trails at M&H and Rita Valentine have been reopened by the city.

Haskins said tranquilizing the mother and removing her became the best solution to what had become a dangerous situation near the trail systems.

The cow elk has spent the past several days defending her young from dogs and people who were getting too close.

She charged at people and got into physical fights with dogs.

Before that, she stood her ground in Rita Valentine Park.

Wildlife officials had hoped she would move away from the area on her own and join other elk.

Haskins said although the city closed trails around the animal, some cyclists and hikers with dogs ignored trail closure signs and got too close to the elk.

He said there was concern that because the elk was acting so aggressively, someone could end up getting hurt even with the closures.

Haskins said the elk was alert and fine after she was relocated this afternoon.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


Dan Kuechenmeister 2 years, 9 months ago

Really, we can't let this mother elk figure her life out and at some point move on with out separating her from her calves.


Lee Cox 2 years, 9 months ago

So the elk was relocated because she was aggressive towards people who IGNORED the closures. What are the consequences to those people? THEY should be relocated.


Colette Erickson 2 years, 9 months ago

Ditto, all of the foregoing comments! Seems like a very poor decision on part of DOW. "Alert and fine........" hmmm, wonder about her emotional distress due to missing her calve(s). If she is like cattle, won't she try to return to the last place her calf nursed, and in all probability, be killed in the process?


Fred Duckels 2 years, 9 months ago

In my book the wildlife win all ties. It is all politics and the DOW personnel have their marching orders


Scott Wedel 2 years, 9 months ago

The insanity of government all around.

Mother elk and offspring didn't seem so tormented by their location since they were staying there. It is more humane to tranquilize her and move her 30 miles away and then look for her offspring?

This was required because people ignored trail closed signs and ignored lease laws?

Why do anything? Those breaking the law were putting themselves at risk. If the risk was so great then why wasn't the law being enforced? If the mother elk was being harassed too much by idiot lawbreakers then she could move on. Maybe it was easier for her to defend her offspring from dogs than from other predators and she liked the location.

Next time DOW should employ a sniper and tranquilize the people that ignore the trail closed signs and transport them to Vail to be released to a park there.


mark hartless 2 years, 9 months ago

... transport them to Vail to be released to a park there.

Good idea...


Ben Tiffany 2 years, 9 months ago

This seems to be one of those rare occasions when most of the regulars agree on something. What a poor move on the part of the DOW,moving a mother elk and leaving her calf unattended and "vulnerable."You bet it's vulnerable! For anyone who complained about the trail closures or ignored them and contributed to this travesty occurring, shame on you.The distinct possibility that this calf will not make it is on your head.


Bob Schneider 2 years, 9 months ago

I thought DOW was to be the advocate for wildlife, especially after making such an effort to reintroduce moose into the valley. What a shameful display of a lack of will on both their part and the the City's !!! If the City had started to patrol the park just briefly and issued a few tickets or warnings about the closings and the leash on dogs, I'll bet the the situation would have been resolved over time. There is, I'm certain, a way or ways to make the Mom uncomfortable so she would willing to seek to relocate. We live in that area and use airhorns to make bears want to move on. A similar gentle effort could have been made here. If DOW does not know how to do that and is unwilling to represent as a FORCEFUL advocate of wildlife, is it just another do nothing government agency???......twould appear so !!


Bob Schneider 2 years, 9 months ago

Further....it is unpardonable that the DOW did not know where the calves were before deporting the Mom !!!!!!


Scott Wedel 2 years, 9 months ago

Seems to me this incident puts into question whether RVP should even be considered to remain as open space. This incident is a case where open space is harmful to wildlife.

The elk cow and calf would have been better off if that was a subdivision since then they wouldn't be tempted to hang out and graze in open fields where people could not tolerate them.

We should not be providing spaces that we know are harmful to wildlife. We have to figure out how to make RVP safe for wildlife or cease to make it available to wildlife.


rhys jones 2 years, 9 months ago

Right on, Scott. This wouldn't be a problem if RVP was affordable, city-subsized housing, much like my ex-girlfriend now enjoys in Aspen. I believe she owns a deed-restricted unit, but am unsure, as it's been a while. I think even Rita might agree, that these days, that might be a much better use of her land, than a playground and exclusive backyard for the elite, which introduces conflicts with the native denizens.

I can't pay much rent or mortgage, but I'll beat any damn elk.


Larry Desjardin 2 years, 9 months ago

I'd recommend readers to read Jenette Settle's letter to the editor in the print edition of the Saturday paper. Too bad it's not online. She's a member of the Park and Rec Board and followed up on this issue. She was told that the city didn't have the resources to enforce the leash law.

Huh? I guess Steamboat has become one big leash-free zone. What it implies is we cannot be good stewards of open space. The whole thing is a needless tragedy.


Martha D Young 2 years, 9 months ago

Yesterday (13 July) my husband and I talked to Steve from DOW at RVP. He reported that one of the calves (which my husband had spotted on 12 July) had been captured and was in rehab care. Steve politely cautioned us to be aware that the second calf was around and keep our two dogs under voice control. This was a no-win situation for the elk, humans and dogs. I wish the elk had chosen another place to have her calves, but she didn't. I wish people had heeded the warnings and signs, but they didn't. I wish the city would put more money into code enforcement (beyond the two full-time CSOs) but it won't. Steve reminded us that elk lead a hard life and that losing calves was part of their plight.


jerry carlton 2 years, 9 months ago

I would say the elk were definitely the biggest losers.


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