More trails closed after aggressive cow elk returns | SteamboatToday.com

More trails closed after aggressive cow elk returns

A trail closure sign warns of an aggressive cow elk on the M&H property adjacent to Rita Valentine Park. The mother elk was tranquilized and relocated to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. Her orphaned calf did not survive at a local rehab center.

— An aggressive cow elk and her calves have returned to the Hilltop Parkway area, leading to more conflicts with dogs and people and another round of city trail closures.

To give the elk some space again, the city of Steamboat Springs has closed all of the trails that run along the M & H property adjacent to Rita Valentine Park.

Closure signs have been posted at all the affected trails that enter the area, including from Anglers Drive, Valverdant Circle and Hilltop Parkway.

Craig Robinson, the city’s open space supervisor, said the elk now is reportedly in an area of brush where she is hard to see.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say the return of the elk in the area has led to more conflicts with dogs and people.

“She is quite aggressive,” Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said. “It’s very interesting because we had an incident this morning with some dogs. Then when I was out there the elk showed aggressive behavior towards a woman who was out there and had a dog on a leash.”

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He said two men who had dogs off leash later walked right past the elk, which was bedded down, without conflict.

“It was really odd behavior,” Haskins said.

The elk is believed to have given birth to two calves in Rita Valentine Park on June 29.

The mother aggressively protected her newborns in the park for several days by charging at people and dogs that got too close.

Parks and Wildlife officials helped herd the elk and one of the calves up a nearby drainage last week.

At the time, the wildlife officials thought the elk only had one calf with her.

The elk returned to Rita Valentine on Sunday night and was seen with two calves.

“My assumption is she came back for that other calf,” Haskins said.

Haskins said it appears the elk has abandoned the Rita Valentine Park area.

He said wildlife officials are hoping the elk moves out of the area with the calves on her own.

The other alternatives aren’t ideal, he said.

One option would be to try and haze the elk away, but in the dense vegetation it could be hard to get her and both of the calves safely away.

The other option would be to tranquilize the elk and also capture the calves to relocate them.

“There’s a lot of things that have to go right to make that successful,” Haskins said. “That’s not my preferred way to handle this, but in the end, it may be the way we have to.”