Staff Save Elk in Rare Close Encounter
Two elk were spotted with locked antlers at the J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve near Tahlequah, OK at 10:15am on Tuesday, November 27. One bull was lying down and appeared lifeless, while a larger bull stood above him trying to free himself.
Tahlequah, Oklahoma | November 30, 2012
Two bulls get locked together via their antlers after battling. The elk are members of a 40-animal herd that was re-introduced to the J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve in 2005 after being absent from the Ozark landscape for more than 150 years.ne bull was lying down and appeared lifeless, while a larger bull stood above him trying to free himself.
Jeremy Tubbs, Preserve Director at the J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve has worked with the elk herd at the preserve since their re-introduction in 2005.
“I immediately went to get help from other preserve staff,” Preserve Director Jeremy Tubbs said. “We knew we had to hurry. We did not want to lose the larger bull to stress and fatigue.”
It is not uncommon to see bulls aggressively guard their harems (a small group of cows and calves) from other bulls on the preserve. However, it is a rare event to see two bulls with locked antlers, especially with one bull still alive.
“Usually, locked antlers from a battle result in the death of both animals. One will die early and the other will eventually lie down from exhaustion and wind up being eaten by a coyote or other animal,” Tubbs explained.
Tubbs and staff rushed to assist the bull. The staff made several attempts to cut the bull’s antlers with a limb saw, however the bull was restless and trying to get away. When the bull would jump around, it would drag the other one with him.
Staff quickly secured the dead bull by chaining it to a tree allowing them to get closer to the surviving bull. Using 2x4’s as a guard, they inched closer with a saw in hand.
“We were able to make a small cut on one of his antlers. It broke off and he quickly turned and bolted to freedom,” Tubbs said. “As of today, he is doing fine. He is now hanging out next to a feeder and a water source. I’m sure he is a little sore from the fight and will need a couple days to rest. We will keep a close eye on him through the week. “
The bull will definitely need some rest. Not only did he have a stressful battle with another bull, but he also uprooted the tree the other bull was chained to.
The rescue took approximately 45 minutes from the moment the bulls were spotted to when the surviving bull was freed. The elk are members of a 40-animal herd that was re-introduced to the preserve in 2005 after being absent from the Ozark landscape for more than 150 years.
“It was an amazing experience. It just shows you how cruel nature can be sometimes. We were saddened to lose one of the bulls, but are thankful that they were in an area where we could see them. Otherwise we would have lost both bulls,” Tubbs said. “You never know what is going to happen when you work at such a wild and wonderful place. I have never seen two antlered animals locked together with my own eyes. It was very intense to say the least.”
Assisting in the rescue were Preserve Assistant Jeremiah Holland and Intern Matthew Webb.
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