Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Close encounters

Before dawn a few days ago, I stepped out on the back porch to check the morning temperature. I scared up an elk right in our backyard, not more than a few feet away. Without really taking note of what startled it, the animal darted behind our shed. I stood still on the porch and noted four or five more elk in our driveway just outside the yard gate.

Within a few minutes, the backyard elk came out from behind the shed and started walking toward me until it was only 10 feet away or so (I don't think it noticed me since I was standing stockstill). I tell ya, until you're right next to these critters, you don't realize how big they are. I didn't have my camera, and it was too dark for photography anyway, but it was impressive just the same. Close encounters of the third kind.

As it got lighter, I watched the small herd move out of the driveway into our lower pasture.

About this time, Older Daughter was leaving for work. She stepped outside, then came back in a few moments later. "Is that elk just rolling in the snow or is he tangled in the fence?" she asked.

I grabbed the camera and zoomed in. Crap. It was tangled in the fence, thrashing and bleating.

At this moment, a neighbor who had been driving by stopped in our driveway (it might have been her passing vehicle that spooked the animal into the fence). "It's a youngster," she said. "I'll call my son [a strapping teenager] and see if he can help."

But even a youngster elk is not a Close Encounter I was eager to tangle with. These guys are strong, and flailing hooves could easily cause damage to any human rescuers.

Meanwhile the other elk who had crossed the road watched the commotion with concern, and started moving back toward the distressed animal.

The tangled elk continued to thrash.

Thankfully after a few more minutes of fighting, he was able to get free, to the relief of everyone (elk and human alike).

Later the animals parked themselves on a sunny slope and chewed their cud as if nothing had happened.

I went looking for hoof prints in our yard in the afternoon. They're big, I tell ya.

Their trails through the snow are also big, compared to those of deer.

Yep, as far as close encounters, that's about as close an encounter as I want to get.