CREEDE, Colo. (CBS4) – An elk was rescued after falling into an old mine shaft near Creede over the weekend.

Hanna Waters said her mother, Chere Waters, regularly walks through the woods but on Saturday, she chose a trail she rarely uses and happened to look down into the abandoned mine shaft.

“I don’t know what it was, but something was drawing me to go up there,” Chere Waters told officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Knowing how dangerous mine shafts can be, Chere Waters said she “belly-crawled” to the edge and looked inside.

“So I looked in and see this animal in there. I was so surprised, I couldn’t believe it,” Waters said.

(credit: Chere Waters)


Hanna Waters said her mother called the game warden and a few local residents to help.

(credit: Chere Waters)

“Fortunately, CPW officers, with a little help were able to rescue it,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The cow elk was sedated, to allow rescuers to pull it from the hole, which CPW described as 30-feet deep.

“Brent [Woodward] shot down into the shaft and tranquilized the elk. With a small window of time, John deftly rigged a system of ropes, tethers and knots and belayed a truly brave Terry [Wetherill] into the shaft,” Hanna Waters wrote on Facebook. “He secured her body and with the winch off of the front of his truck far above, slowly lifted her out of the hole.

(credit: Chere Waters)

“It was clear she had been standing down there for a few days,” Hanna Waters wrote.

Terry Wetherill, Mineral Count emergency and search and rescue manger, said that over the years he’s pulled deer and elk out of barbed-wire fences, “but I’ve never had to pull one out of a hole.”

“It was great that we could get her out alive,” CPW Officer Brent Woodward said.

CPW video shows the elk shaking of the drugs. A few men stand near the elk, prodding it with sticks to try to get it to stand. The elk slowly regains her balance and wanders off — but only after taking a glance back at her rescuers.

(credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

“Our lady trotted off, a good sign that she was indeed not injured, but not before she stopped short, turned around, and gave her rescue party a long, deep look,” Hanna Waters wrote. “Maybe it meant, what in the hell just happened ? Maybe it meant, thank you. Thank you.”

Wetherill is talking to officials at the Rio Grande National Forest office and Mineral County to determine ownership of the shaft so that it can be covered.


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