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It’s sad to see when pollution and garbage have a detrimental effect on wildlife, such as marine wildlife getting strangled by six-pack plastic rings. Over the past two years, this phenomenon occurred in a very unusual way. An elk roamed the Colorado wilderness with a car tire stuck around its neck. However, last Saturday, the elk was finally freed of this horrible burden.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers removed a tire from an elk’s neck

Elk with a tire around its neck
Elk With a Tire Around Its Neck | Colorado Parks and Wildlife

According to Autoblog, people saw the elk near Pine Junction, which is around a 40-mile drive from Denver. The elk is around four and a half years old and weighs approximately 600 pounds. After they were alerted to the location of the elk, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers tranquilized the elk and removed the tire. It was not an easy task, though. They could not cut through the steel bead of the tire, so they cut off the five-point antlers of the elk before they removed the tire. 

“We would have preferred to cut the tire and leave the antlers for his rutting activity, but the situation was dynamic, and we had to just get the tire off in any way possible.”

 – Scott Murdoch, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer

Murdoch and another officer, Dawson Swanson, detailed how much of a heavy load was removed from the elk. With the car tire, debris inside the tire, and antlers, the elk shed around 35 pounds. 

Murdoch stated that the biggest concern about the elk is that during the breeding season, the necks of elks “swell up and get much thicker.” He was worried that the neck of the elk would “fill up the entire center of the tire and restrict blood flow or air or ability to grow.” Fortunately, the wildlife officers made it to the elk and removed the tire before these concerns materialized.

Problems with wildlife getting entangled in human items

The tire around the neck of the elk has been an ongoing saga. Wildlife officers first spotted the elk in 2019 while conducting a population survey for mountain goats and bighorn sheep in the Mount Evans Wilderness. There have been other sightings of the elk since then.

In addition to the elk with the tire around its neck, wildlife officers saw other elk, deer, bears, and moose caught in other human items. This includes hammocks, swing sets, furniture, clotheslines, soccer goals, volleyball nets, laundry baskets, chicken feeders, tomato cages, and decorative and holiday lighting. 

How to prevent wildlife from getting entangled in garbage and other debris


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While a tire around the neck of an elk is a “once in a million” phenomenon, instances of garbage and other debris adversely affecting animals, as noted above, are more common. You can do your part to prevent this from happening. 

The most obvious solution is to never litter, especially in close proximity to watersheds and natural land. When you go camping or hiking, “pack it in and pack it out.”

Rinse and recycle any food containers to remove any odors that may attract animals. Also, cut up or crush plastic containers before you place them in the recycling or garbage bin. For example, cut the six-pack plastic rings. Another problematic item for animals is fishing lines or nylon twine. Place them in special disposal containers.