February 22, 2009 in Outdoors

Notorious park elk falls, dies

Mead Gruver Associated Press
 
File Associated Press photo

Yellowstone Park’s mighty bull elk No. 6 charged tourists, trashed their vehicles and spread its genetics through the herd before succumbing in a freak fall last month.
(Full-size photo)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – His name was just a numeral, yet he had legions of human admirers and few rivals among his own species.

Mighty bull elk No. 6 died earlier this month, victim of a freak accident just north of Yellowstone National Park.

He tripped while trying to cross a fence and somersaulted onto his back. Pinned between large rocks with his antlers beneath him, No. 6 slowly suffocated.

Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said No. 6 impressed everyone who saw him. He had a trophy-sized rack and weighed an unusually hefty 725 pounds.

“I certainly understand why he was a favorite of visitors. It’s very impressive watching a big, powerful animal like that,” Nash said.

Each fall, more than 100 cow and bull elk congregate around Yellowstone headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs to graze and mate. Biggest and baddest of all was No. 6, who was famous for venting his sexual frustration on rival bull elk and cars. He was responsible for many thousands of dollars in damage to tourists’ cars over the years.

“(Bull elk) just decide that they want to take out some of their aggression. Sometimes it’s the grass, sometimes it’s a tree. Sometimes it’s your personal vehicle,” Nash said. “And while moving vehicles certainly can be an issue, the vehicles don’t have to be moving to be a target.”

Sometimes humans were the target: The record of No. 6 included attacks on two people. One person needed stitches. The other was knocked over without being hurt.

Park officials removed the antlers of No. 6 in 2004 and again in 2005 to make him less dangerous.

He got an orange and black ear tag with a number on it several years ago.

Also tagged was bull elk No. 10, chief rival of No. 6. Nash said the death of No. 6 could make No. 10 king of Yellowstone this fall, but several younger elk also have been making themselves known.

Elk usually live 13 to 18 years. No. 6 was believed to be at least 15 years old.

He is survived by a large harem of cow elk and many progeny.

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