A pair of Washington game wardens pulled an extra shift this past weekend, and it had nothing to do with the very busy rifle deer opener.
Rather, it was to untangle an elk — then make sure the heavily sedated animal didn’t die afterwards.
It all started Saturday afternoon when Sgt. Danyl Klump got a text from a Wenatchee-area landowner that a bull had wrapped itself in barbed wire up in the Stemilt Basin, so he tasked Officers Blake Tucker and Will Smith, who had been on duty since that morning, with freeing the animal.
“It had gone through a fence, ripped out a handful of fence posts and wrapped around a tree,” says Klump.
It’s believed it could have been tangled up for as many as two days.
“The timing was horrible, but you can’t leave a bull elk like that,” Klump says.
Tucker and Smith arrived on the scene and drugged the seven-point — “You don’t want a massive bull elk thrashing its antlers” — and were able to get the wire off by 9 p.m., when they texted their boss that they should clear the incident in 45 minutes.
So Klump was a little surprised to wake up early Sunday morning and see they’d just sent him a follow-up email that they were still with the elk.
It had gone into heavy sedation, requiring Tucker and Smith to stay with it.
“They maintained its breathing through the night. They used logs and sticks to prop it up,” Klump said.
If they hadn’t, its lungs could have been crushed and collapsed, killing it, he says.
“When you sedate something, you take responsibility for it,” Klump says.
He says that sometimes very large bears will react the same way, even when the recommended dosages are followed.
Smith and Tucker took turns being with the elk and warming up in their rigs as coyotes howled through the night.
“None of us expected it to be that long into the evening,” says Klump.
He says that at one point the officers thought they’d lost the elk. The bull exhaled and didn’t inhale for a long while, but then took a shallow breath.
As the elk came out of it, the officers helped it stand, then gave it a slap to get moving.
“It slowly walked off, then ate some grass,” says Klump.
It was a successful end to a workday that had begun the morning before.
“They had basically a 23-hour shift,” he says.
For the sergeant the rescue fit right into part of WDFW’s mission — “(to) preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems …” — even if it came at the most inopportune moment, the opening weekend of modern firearm deer season, the most popular single hunt in the state.
“Often we get the call too late and the animal dies or the coyotes get it,” Klump says.
Not this time, thanks to two dedicated public — and wildlife — servants.
“They went way above and beyond,” he says of Smith and Tucker. “I’m very proud of these guys.”
Editor’s note: Our apologies for misspelling the last name of Sgt. Dan Klump in the initial version of this blog.