ESTES PARK, Colo. (CBS4) – A baby elk found alone and injured in Estes Park was taken to a local veterinarian after wildlife officials told police to kill the animal.
Estes Park police received calls Monday afternoon about the small elk and responded to the area where it appeared to be abandoned by its mother. A spokesperson for the department said the officer who found the elk said it had a swollen leg. The officer called Colorado Parks & Wildlife and was told to euthanize the calf, but the officer felt that was unnecessary.
“We will only euthanize in extreme situations, ” said Kate Rusch, Public Information Officer for Estes Park Police.
The officer called Dr. Marie Cenac at Animal Hospital of the Rockies who said she would treat the wild animal.
“He was dehydrated, had low blood sugar,” Cenac said of the week-old elk. “We took X-rays and he has a small fracture in his leg.”
Dr. Cenac said Parks & Wildlife called her office to say the animal should be euthanized, but she refused.
“This baby is part of our community, I can’t help it,” Cenac told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “It’s not that I’m bucking the rules, the rules are there for a reason. I just can’t go by those rules without the possibility of a rehabber.”
Dr. Cenac said Parks & Wildlife’s policy is that any animal that can’t leave medical care and go to a rehabilitation facility should be euthanized. The problem, she said, is that there is not an elk rehab facility anywhere close to Estes Park.
“So I think it’s our responsibility to help the herd,” Cenac said.
The baby elk, who Dr. Cenac calls Elliot, is believed to be part of the herd that is often seen in Estes Park. Dr. Cenac said other injured elk have been rehabilitated and returned to the well-known herd and believes the baby would have no problem reuniting in a few months.
“This is a baby, not an adult,” she said. “Yes, it has a fracture, but it’s fixable and possible to get him back with the herd.”
Yet Parks & Wildlife spokesperson Jennifer Churchill said that’s not necessarily the case. Tuesday afternoon, wildlife officials picked up the baby elk and took it to their treatment facility in Fort Collins.
“He still needs mother’s milk, so our veterinarian will take care of him there,” Churchill said.
Churchill said the animal will never be returned to the wild after it’s interaction with humans.
“I wouldn’t [treat him] if I thought he was going to be domesticated his whole life,” Dr. Cenac said. “I want him back in the herd. I want him to have his normal, wild life.”
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 This Morning over the weekend and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.