A cow elk rescued from a mine shaft in Colorado on April 18, 2020, was not injured. Hikers in Creede, CO, including Chere Waters, saw it and initiated the animal rescue. A Creede resident for 34 years, Waters wanted to hike a trail near Bachelor Loop Road. She remembered seeing a mine shaft there several years prior.

Finding The Elk

“I don’t know what it was, but something was drawing me to go up there.” – Chere Waters

Her intuition to visit the mine shaft led to an uncommon rescue of a 250-pound cow elk by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers and local emergency responders.

Being adventurous, she crawled to the edge of the hole to look in while her boyfriend held her ankles.

“So I looked in and see this animal in there. I was so surprised, I couldn’t believe it.” – Chere Waters

Rescuing The Elk

They contacted the sheriff’s department and about an hour later Wildlife Officers Brent Woodward and Jeremy Gallegos arrived, along with Mineral County Sheriff’s Officers.

“When I got the call I was told that a deer was stuck in a hole. But they thought the shaft was only about 10 feet deep. When I got there I could see it was an elk and it was probably 30 feet down.”
– Brent Woodward, Wildlife Officer

elk rescued from a mine shaft
Photo Credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Woodward darted the elk with a tranquilizer to temporarily put it to sleep. The shaft was near an old four-wheel drive trail so they were able to get vehicles close. With a winch from one of the trucks, Terry Wetherill, Mineral Count emergency and search and rescue manger, was lowered into the hole. With just enough room to maneuver, he placed straps around the elk.

In 1889, miners flocked to Creede at the start of a silver boom. There are dozens of old mine shafts in the area but most of them have collapsed and filled in over the years. The walls of this particular shaft are still secured with logs. The opening is probably over 100 years old.

“It’s dangerous, it’s in the shadows and until you’re 20 feet away you don’t see it.” – Terry Wetherill

Wetherill is contacting officials with the Rio Grande National Forest office and Mineral County to determine ownership of the shaft so that it can be covered.

The Recovery

The elk was pulled up slowly. Woodward described its condition as “pretty beat up.” He estimated it could have been stuck there for up to three days.

Out of the hole, the responders took about 15 minutes to examine her condition. Officer Gallegos administered a drug to reverse the tranquilize. After a few minutes, this video shows she recovered and returned to the timber.

Have you ever discovered and rescued any wildlife in peril?

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