Two bull elk that have become minor celebrities at Cowichan Lake this past month are actually in serious danger, especially with mating season only a week or so away.
“Monster Mesh” and “Line Dancer,” as they have become known, are the elk in question; the former has garden mesh and debris tangled in its antlers, the latter has a clothes line tangled in its antlers but also wrapped around its mouth. And while their appearances — and the nicknames each incident has spawned — are comical, Denis Martel coordinator of the Valley Fish and Game Club’s Wilderness Watch Program, warns the situation is no laughing matter.
Martel explained that Monster Mesh’s antlers became ensnared in the mesh used for growing peas in a backyard garden in Youbou.
“The elk got in a little too close and his antler kind of poked into one, and as he pulled out he got frightened so he pulled the other way and made it even worse, so he pulled the other way and made it even worse again. And then he just bolted out of there with all this stuff,” he said.
As for Line Dancer, he got his rack snagged on a low-hanging clothesline, also in Youbou.
Each of the animals faces a different set of challenges.
“The one with the clothesline, he has the clothesline wrapped around the top of his mouth. There’s a double wrap around his mouth like a horse bridle. And I’ve been watching him and the clothesline has been getting tighter and tighter and tighter,” said Martel, adding that he has observed it eating apples with mixed success.
Monster Mesh does not have the same problem eating, however, in the upcoming “rut” or mating season, it will be at a total disadvantage compared to other male elk.
“The one with the mesh we’re a little concerned with because any rival bull that he spars with him has the upper hand right away because he has full sight,” said Martel.
Both animals have been spotted and photographed repeatedly over the past month, but conservation officers, who are particularly swamped with calls this time of year, have not been able to respond to reports in time to catch either elk.
Martel said that the next time one of the elk is spotted, he is going to attempt to follow the animal at a distance until conservation services are able to arrive on the scene.
“Then they’ll be able to dart them and dismantle anything that’s caught in the antlers,” he said. Wilderness Watch members are not authorized to use tranquilizers or other tools on the elk because the proper dosage, as determined by a trained chemist, must be administered in order to render them unconscious long enough to remove the debris.
Martel commended the volunteers and community members who have been helpful in calling in sightings and posting photos on Facebook, which he said has become one of Wilderness Watch’s most powerful tools.
He also advised that area residents take steps to prevent this from happening in the future. “If you’ve got clothesline out there or you have gardens or ropes or whatever, consider the elk before you put them down. If you’re going to put a mesh in your garden for example, make sure your gate is locked and your fence is high enough so they can’t come over it,” he said.
Any sightings of either elk can be reported to Martel directly at 250-732-0139.