Couple says call to help injured elk went unanswered as animal suffered to its death

GOLDEN, Colo. — For many of us, the biggest draw of living in Colorado is the great outdoors, but humans and animals don't always mix, and sometimes the results can be tragic. 

A couple tells Denver7 they called over and over again to get help for an injured elk, but it never came.

Joe Maes and his wife spotted an injured mother elk in the grassy area where C-470 and I-70 meet, with the calf nearby.

As soon as I got close enough, the elk got up and tried to stand up, but she fell twice," said Maes.

They told Denver7 they called Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Thursday, September 6 and reached the after-hours voicemail. They were instructed to contact Colorado State Patrol.

"They said they would dispatch somebody to take a look," said Maese.

But that never happened and for three days, Joe and his wife continued to see the elk, still alive and struggling.

"Who knows how long it suffered but my concern is the response from Colorado Fish and Game and maybe state patrol," said Maes.

CSP told Denver7, the call they received did not specify the elk was injured and as a result, the incident was placed “low on the priority list” because “people are always first.” A spokesperson explained to Denver7 that troopers were busy with calls about accidents. An officer never reached the elk.

So Maes called CSP again on Sunday, and this time a trooper was dispatched but unable to locate the elk, the spokesperson told Denver7.

"Been three days or more and we knew that the animal was suffering and come to find out today that the animal is dead," said Maes.

It’s unclear which agency should've responded to the elk, as there is no clear policy, according to Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Jason Clay. It is case by case and depends on whether the animal is alive, injured, endangering the highway and of course if staffing is available to answer a call. The voicemail left for Parks and Wildlife was not received until Sunday. On weekends, an on-call staff member can answer calls but staffing is low.

The call may have fallen through the cracks, as CSP was not able to make it out the elk the very first time the Maes’ reported the injured animal. In some instances, CSP could then call Parks and Wildlife and ask for help, to either euthanize the animal or habilitate it.

"First time we got a call on Sunday and our officer was told it was roadkill for the cow and that the calf was hanging around," said Clay.

A CSP spokesperson tells us they couldn’t locate the elk, but Denver7 was able to locate it while meeting Joe. He and his wife did exactly what they were supposed to do, but they feel it wasn’t enough.

"It’s just sad that this happens. I hate to see an animal suffer,” said Maes.

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