BENEZETTE – Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Doty McDowell, on the morning of Aug. 20, had planned to tackle some routine administrative duties and check on bear traps he had set to address nuisance situations in the area. But, with a call he received at just after 7 a.m., he found that his plans were going to change in a big way, as he was called to rescue a bull elk that had become entangled in a swing on the old school grounds of Benezette, Elk County.
“When I arrived, the bull appeared to be extremely agitated, and was thrashing its head,” McDowell said. “The elk would run in an attempt to escape, but as it reached the end of the swing rope, the elk was picked up off its feet and swung back in the other direction.
“After hitting it with a tranquilizer dart, it took about 10 minutes for the drugs to take effect and the elk to calm down to the point we could approach it.”
McDowell, assisted by Mark Gritzer, Game Commission biologist aide, quickly slipped a blind-fold over its eyes and began to monitor the elk’s vital signs – heart rate, temperature and respiratory rate. The two agency employees then untangled the swing from its antlers. As the right antler had been damaged at the pedicle, Gritzer removed its right antler before injecting it with the reversal drug.
Bob Shank and his son, James, arrived at the scene just as McDowell was tranquilizing the bull.
“We could see that his antlers were hung up in two swings and he was in obvious distress,” said Bob Shank, who has posted a series of photographs of the incident on his Web site. “What we witnessed was a stressful situation handled with professionalism and obvious expertise.”
This is not the first time that McDowell has been called on to rescue an elk that had become entangled in a variety of materials, and over the years has been involved in removing items ranging from wire fencing to tire swings.
“Elk are a very majestic and charismatic species that many Pennsylvanians enjoy viewing,” McDowell said. “From time to time, you just never know what kind of circumstance these animals are going to get themselves into.
“The elk around Winslow Hill are wild animals, and people need to enjoy them at a distance. They should never approach or feed them, as both could result in someone being injured, as well as the fact that the feeding activity is illegal.”
For more information on elk viewing, please see the Game Commission’s Web site, select “Hunting” in the left-hand column and then click on the photograph of an elk.