Elk in Distress Rescued by Pennsylvania Game Commission

Thursday morning on August 20, 2009 found this Pennsylvania bull elk in severe distress as it was caught up in a swing in the old school grounds of Benezette, PA. Brad & Shane Myers found this bull in distress and reported what they found immediately to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. They will be posting amazing photographs on their blog. Willard Hill and Tom Murphy were also there to record the elk rescue with their video cameras. I am sure that more detailed photos and video footage will be forthcoming, but I wanted to share a few of the photographs I captured during this transition from elk distress to rescue.

My son, James, and I happened onto the scene just as the Wildlife Conservation Officers were tranquilizing the bull. We could see that his antlers were hung up in two swings and he was in obvious distress. The following photographs tell the story of what we witnessed as this stressful situation was handled with professionalism and obvious expertise.

Bull with tranqualizer in hindquarter

Bull with tranqualizer in hindquarter


Bull's antlers hung up in swings


Freeing the bull from the tangle of swings


Free at last


Removing the broken antler


Checking the bull's heart rate


Willard Hill and Tom Murphy videographing the rescue


Removing the tranquilizer


Inspecting the tranquilizer


Checking the time into the rescue attempt


Administering the antidote


Caring for the patient


Beginning to wake up


First steps to recovery


Running from distress to relief


Wondering what happened


Some scars from distress, but relief at last!

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17 Responses to Elk in Distress Rescued by Pennsylvania Game Commission

  1. Willard says:

    Excellent work, Bob. I had been aware of your website and visit it from time to time, but I didn’t realize you had the blog. I put it on the favorite links of my blog and hope to return frequently.

    It was good to meet you and your son during the past trip and discuss photography and elk issues. I too was impressed with the professionalism and expertise of WCO McDowell and the other PGC employee.

  2. Will his antler grow back ? This could put a damper on his love life! 🙁

    • bobshank says:

      Lisa, his antler will not grow back this year, which definitely will affect his love life. He was a very nice bull for his age and he could have competed well but this will be put on hold for at least a year. The break occurred at the base of the antler where it connects with his skull, so there is the possibility that he may have permanent damage that will affect the way his right antler grows in the future. The Game Commission did all they could to save his life and now it’s in Mother Nature’s hand. I did say a prayer for him Thursday night and have been thinking about him every day since.

  3. Lynn Gilmore says:

    Bob …. This is so awesome … I so enjoy seeing your work …. keep me updated!

    • bobshank says:

      Thanks, Lynn. I will keep you updated. The wildlife photography has been great and I am also involved in many other subjects as well. It’s all been very good. It was great to hear from you!

  4. Dave Schutz says:

    Well done PGC. This is something you don’t see everyday. Great photography Bob Shank.

  5. marlene long says:

    why does the elk have only one horn now? I could see no possible reason why one horn would have had to be removed.

  6. bobshank says:

    Because this bull broke that antler down at the base where it connects to his skull. The antler had to be removed for him to be able to survive. Otherwise it would have eventually broken the hide and risk infection. Believe me, the Biologist and Wildlife Conservation Officer knew exactly what they were doing. Their knowledge and expertise saved this bull’s life!

  7. Sam Whistler says:

    I followed the link from the Game Commission website, and have
    several comments for you.
    First, I’m not a photo guru by any means, but what you have captured on film for the rest of us is amazing.
    Second, this rescue is another fine example of the many hats that a Wildlife Conservation Officer must keep in his/her truck. You will NEVER hear me complain about the price of a hunting license in PA!
    Third, which is actually a question. I noticed that the young lady with her camera and notepad, appears to be awful close to the elk and the WCO’s. Did anyone mention to her that even though the elk is sedated, there are still risks involved with being that close? I’m not implying that she shouldn’t be there, just curious as to how she got so close when everyone else appears to be at a safer distance.
    Fourth, and final comment, you have another fan that will be looking forward to many more of your wonderful encounters with wildlife, thank you!

  8. bobshank says:

    Thank you, Sam! I truly appreciate your comments and feedback. As to your question, that young lady appeared to be the daughter of one of the two Game Commission personnel. She actually did keep a respectful distance from the elk much of the time and you can see that she tried to keep one of the adults between her and the bull elk. I am sure she was coached on what to do and was informed of the potential dangers. I agree that the WCOs wear many hats. I, too, will not complain about the price of hunting licenses and I will be much less critical of the Game Commission in general after witnessing this amazing event. The bull elk rescue was successful on all levels and all we can do is wait to see the final outcome for this bull. Hopefully he will continue to be an important part of a the incredible elk herd in our beautiful state.

  9. Steve Stover says:

    Great pictures Bob. Whitey and Dave told me about the incident and I came across your blog. Keep up the great work.

  10. bobshank says:

    Hi Steve! It was great to hear from you. I’m glad you found my blog. The elk photography has been great lately and I am hoping that we can get up again before the month is gone. How are you and Connie doing? Rumor has it you may be retiring soon!

  11. Colette says:

    Bob –
    We have a camp on Grey Hill Road. We seen this elk at our camp and my 7 year old daughter, Abby, named him “Elliott” after the one antler deer on the movie Open Season.
    We were then in the Elk Country Store talking with Ken & Pat and they told us the story of Elliott.
    Great pics! Thanks for posting them for all to see.

  12. Joyce Moore says:

    I enjoyed seeing the great pictures of the website photos of the elk’s rescue. GREAT job! I wonder if his life will be saved in yet another way since he is now missing his antler on one side. Will he be less likely to be killed in hunting season?

    • bobshank says:

      I would think he definitely has a good chance to make it through the elk hunt this season. First of all, he is a young bull, and second of all, most elk hunters who draw a bull tag want the biggest set of antlers they can find. I just saw this bull yesterday and he was hanging with another spike, so I guess he figured out that he is not much competition to the other two-antlered bull elk. He does look healthy and I hope he continues to do well and is able to sport a sizable rack next year.

  13. Yolande Josephson says:

    This was so touching and having lived in the Northern part of Minnesota I often wonder when the animals get hurt and so often we don’t know in time to save them. I’m so glad that you were able to do what you did, he may not be a handsome bull for this year but I’m sure he will make up for it. At least he is alive.

  14. JackieKU says:

    hi members,

    I am just joined here and , trying to get some things here.

    Sorry for my bad english i m Belarus



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