Nanaimo’s Trisha Emde was intrigued when she spotted a Roosevelt elk in the distance, so she got a little closer only to realize the animal was adorned with a crown of debris.
“It’s quite the elk, eh?” said Emde. “It worried me.”
Around noon on Feb. 9, the amateur photographer was near Nanaimo Airport with a camera in hand. She likes capturing photos of unique wildlife, but for her, this was a seldom sight as the elk had materials, like screws and plastic piping, in its antlers.
“I guess they often get tangled up in stuff, but I’ve never seen someone quite like that before,” Emde told CHEK News Monday.
“I’ve seen elk with Christmas lights or rope tangled in their antlers, they seem to do that a lot. But I’ve never seen anything with this black plumbing-type piping and at least two big screws and a bunch of tight rope.”
‘Somebody needs to do something’
So Emde captured a photo of the elk and later posted it to Facebook, where commenters also expressed concern for the animal.
“Seeing something like that, there was a lot of feedback on Facebook,” she said. “People saying somebody needs to do something.”
Emde wonders if the materials were littered.
“If that’s the case, that’s a huge problem. If that’s the case, some laws need to come down because that is very, very scary,” she said.
“I know there were a lot of people saying people need to be responsible and not leave garbage lying around for the wildlife to get into, especially when these are a threatened species, and they are such a beautiful, majestic creature.”
VanIsle Hunters says Roosevelt elk, unique to Vancouver Island, is a threatened species. It points to B.C. Government Ecosystems, which says the animal is of special concern, while the University of Victoria estimates about 3,000 live here.
The province says elk bulls drop their antlers from late February to early April, and the oldest animals shed their antlers first.
“New antlers begin growing in April and reach full size by late August or early September,” it adds.
Reporting entangled animals
People on social media recommended calling the BC Conservation Officer Service (BC COS), which tells CHEK News it often responds to these types of incidents.
“The COS is often notified by the public of entanglements involving netting, x mas lights, etc. The difficulty is that by the time a CO attends, the animal has often left the area,” a spokesperson said.
“If deer are mobile and feeding and are not in distress, action may not be required.”
A spokesperson with the BC SPCA tells CHEK News that, for the most part, animals in situations such as this do fine and eventually shed their antlers.
“But every once in a while, the animal is suffering greatly and can’t survive,” they said. “Whatever they have is preventing them from being able to feed and move about, but that would be extremely rare.”
It can be “kind of weird” for the animal, however.
“And might be a little bit annoying,” the spokesperson added, “but they are able to feed themselves and get around just fine until they shed their antlers.”
Emde says the elk is seemingly unbothered.
“If he’s moving around and living his life and eating. But those big screws. If he’s fighting with another one,” she said. “I didn’t realize that they were two screws until I got home and got the picture onto the computer so I could enlarge it.”
She says she spotted the elk since capturing the photo last week and hopes it will soon lose its antlers to free itself of the materials.
“He does seem to be still hanging out in that general area. It is about the time of year they’ll lose their antlers,” she added.
“I was just fascinated by what I was seeing.”
The COS says people can report entangled animals to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.