Sierra Valley Elk killed in rescue effort

Alicia Knadler

  Sierra Valley ranchers wanted to save the bull elk that was killing their calves and chasing cows, not shoot it.

  Yet after a Wednesday, Sept. 12 rescue gone awry, it died en route to its new home.

  California Department of Fish and Game Wildlife biologist Terri Weist wrote a letter to fish and game commissioners and others explaining what happened.

  “While our policy has always been not to relocate problem animals, we all realize that we should protect one of the few elk that reside in Sierra County,” she wrote. “So, we developed a plan to dart the animal and relocate him as far away as possible, as these animals often end up right back to the same place.”

  With Weist in the field that day were Warden Bill Miller, from the department’s wildlife investigations lab, and several members of the Rocky Mountain Elk and Mule Deer foundations.

  “Everything was going according to plan,” Weist said. “We measured vital signs and loaded him into a trailer for transport.”

  The elk was on his feet fast once they administered a drug to counteract the tranquilizer dart, but was also extremely agitated.

  Thinking the movement of the trailer would calm him, they departed quickly.

  At stops he thrashed around in the trailer, and when they arrived at their destination, the bull was dead.

  “I assure you, we did everything we could to prevent this outcome,” she said in the end. “But animal captures and relocations are inherently risky.”

  The event will be evaluated, Weist added, hoping to learn what they could have done differently.

  “Often animals can react to drugs in variable ways and these outcomes, while rare, do happen,” she finished.

  For more information, contact Weist at 836-0889.

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