He was sporting a tarp, an innertube, and windchimes last week, but he was the same frisky fellow everyone knew from last year.
Cowichan Lake’s famous bull elk, formerly known as Line Dancer for his amazing head gear, had returned with a new collection for fall 2017, according to Denis Martel, coordinator of Wilderness Watch.
He was renamed Tuber by folks who’ve seen him.
“We saw him yesterday [Sept. 20]. We were so fortunate to see him with his harem. He’s doing quite well. And he does have an adornment of articles on his antlers. He’s got what looks like an innertube up there, he’s also got a tarp that he’s run into, and he’s also got some windchimes at last count. He’s into everything. It’s amazing what they do,” he said late last week. “My granddaughter videotaped another bull while they were out camping and that bull was flipping logs around because he was feeling his oats.”
Because the elk are in their rutting season right now, they are edgy and willing to fight to preserve their territory and harem of cows so don’t try to get close to a bull.
“They can move faster than you can. You’d have to get out of the bush, then get around your truck, and then get in. He’s got you before you even get there,” Martel said.
But Tuber, despite the new look he was sporting, is apparently in good shape.
“He’s out there. When we saw him, he had four to six cows with him, that he’s gathered together as his harem.
“He’s not in any danger at all. He’s eating well. When we saw him, he’d just finished eating and was bedding down and was chewing his cud. He saw us and wasn’t panicked because we were no threat. I forgot my bugle so I had whacked a stump. Then he stood up. It is the same one we had last year.”
On Friday, Sept. 22, a conservation officer was able to tranquilize Tuber and remove his collection of head gear.
They were lucky to find the big bull quietly resting, but tranquilizing this elk is a difficult option to choose, according to Martel.
“If you dart him, with the stress that he’s under because of the rut, because he’s 24 hours a day on alert, fighting and whatever else he’s done, you may find yourself with a dead elk. He may not revive himself. Sometimes they’re so down they just can’t come back.”
Martel said that years back he saw that happen when a conservation officer from Nanaimo had to dart a bull elk.
“He [the conservation officer] cupped his hands right over top of the elk’s nose and was giving him nose-to-mouth resuscitation. He tried and tried and tried but, no way, he was gone. It was so sad. We had to do it because he was all hooked up. He would have died from starvation had we not freed him. He had been tromping through people’s yards and whatever.”
Another bull elk was also tranquilized for his own safety Friday because he had become enmeshed in some kind of fence and couldn’t even move his head, according to the Wilderness Watch coordinator.
By Sunday night, he was still looking for another bull.
“He is in dire need of attention. He has about 20 cows in his harem, and has a tangled mess of who-knows-what in his antlers,” he said.
Martel urged anyone living in an area where elk might pass by to clean up obstacles from your yard.
“If you’ve got garden meshes that are still up, or tennis or badminton nets, tubes on the beach or anything like that that they can run into at night, please put them away,” he said.
Martel said he’d seen one Youbou homeowner who had a tennis net across their driveway all summer to keep people from coming through.
“I mentioned it to [conservation officer Sgt.] Scott Norris and he said he’d talk to the people. I went by there this week and it was gone. That was so nice of those people. If there are people out there who have done this, I thank them from the bottom of my heart because it means one less elk that’s susceptible to having traumatic problems through the rut,” he said.