Team effort by wildlife officials saves elk entangled in tire swing

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Pennsylvania Game Commission via AP
The bull elk struggles to hold his head up after his left antler became entangled in rope tied to a tire, which had filled with water.
Click photo for larger image.

It's tough to attract members of the opposite sex when you're carrying a spare tire, even for an elk.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, a bull elk on the rut during mating season got into trouble and had to be rescued near Benezette, Elk County, after two days of lugging around a tire from a tree swing that had become entangled in his antlers.

Canoeists on Sinnemahoning Creek spotted the elk, a 3- or 4- year-old 600-pounder, last weekend and couldn't help but notice the lengthy rope wrapped around its left antler and attached to a tire that it had dragged through the creek while crossing.

By the time game commission officials found the elk along the creek at 10 a.m., Monday, it was stressed, weakened and totally exhausted.

"The tire had filled with water and the weight of the water-filled tire was too much for the elk to keep its head up any longer," said Tony Ross, the game commission's regional wildlife management supervisor. "We needed to remove the tire and rope and, given the situation, we had to act quickly."

At 2 p.m., as six game commission employees moved into position around the elk that had collapsed on the creek bank, Doty McDowell, a wildlife conservation officer, shot it with a tranquilizer dart. When it was hit with the dart, the elk got up and stumbled into the water.

"Once the drug took effect we immediately moved in to hold the elk's head above the water so that it would not drown," Mr. Ross said. "It certainly was a thrilling yet anxious time for all involved."

An hour later, after the rope and tire had been removed and game commission biologists had attached a much lighter tracking research collar, the elk got back on its feet, climbed the creek bank and went into the woods.

Mr. Ross said the elk probably became entangled in the rope swing while rubbing its antlers on a tree while attempting to "mark its territory," a normal activity during the breeding season.

In the past, elk have become entangled in clotheslines and fencing.

In 2001, game commission officials in Clinton County had to rescue an elk tangled in scrap wire and anchored to a tree. It was not badly cut but the exhausted animal could not lie down without strangling itself. After it was tranquilized, the elk was disentangled from the wire.

Pennsylvania's free-ranging elk herd numbers more than 500 in Elk, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton and Potter counties. It attracts more than 70,000 tourists annually, most during the fall rut.

Don Hopey can be reached at or 412-263-1983.


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