Monday, October 21, 2013

Bull Fight Ends In Death

Photographers enjoy the beauty of the natural world and strive to capture their subjects in beautiful, exciting poses, but unfortunately  some things in nature are not beautiful.  While I prefer to concentrate on the awesome beauty that can be found in the outdoors, it is good to document  some of the less pleasant  aspects of the outdoor experience so that the public is aware of the reality of life for animals in the wild.

The Beauty of Nature: Canon 70D-Canon 300mm f2.8-ISO 400-1/320 sec. f 3.2
As we pointed out in the last post, most who visit the elk hope to see an exciting bull fight, but they often do not consider the serious injury that can result to the participants.  A prime example of this was when the famous character bull "Fred, Jr." was gored in 2000.  I do not know if anyone got to see the fight in which he was injured, but I found him in the Winslow Hill back country one September morning in 2000 and was surprised to find that he had a large hole in one side.

Fred Gored-2000-Canon L2 Hi-8 Camcorder Video Still Capture

 I spent over an hour with the great animal as he stood on a hillside licking his wound.  After close observation it seemed likely that the wound had not penetrated vital organs and he had an excellent chance to recover.

Fred's Wound: Canon Elan II-Lens Unknown-35mm scan
 I was further reassured when he suddenly scented the air and then ran into a nearby hollow where I found him  pursuing a hot cow.  By the next autumn there was no sign of the injury and I had the privilege of recording him and the Test Hill bull in the fight that is featured in The Elk Country Visitor Center theater presentation and my film, "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd.  A small portion of this fight is also included in my latest film, "Running Wild in Pennsylvania Elk Country".  Both films may be purchased at Benezett Store.

At least one fatality resulted from a bull fight on Winslow Hill this year.  To the best of my knowledge someone reported to the PGC that a bull was dead, but the officer who responded  could not find the animal and asked noted elk photographer Ron "Buckwheat" Saffer if he had seen it.  At this point Saffer had not, but he later found the animal and notified the PGC.

Goring Victim: Photo Courtesy of Ronald J. Saffer- Used by permission
The bull was in The Saddle Area.  If you look directly over the back end of the bull in the photo below you can see Dewey Road in the background and the large meadow to the side of the road where the fight took place that was featured in the short video I posted recently.

Goring Victim: Photo Courtesy of Ronald J. Saffer- Used by permission
Soon Wildlife Conservation Officer Doty McDowell arrived and removed the animal.

WCO Doty McDowell Arrives: Photo Courtesy of Ronald J. Saffer- Used by permission

WCO Doty McDowell Removing Elk: Photo Courtesy of Ronald J. Saffer- Used by permission
According to Buckwheat this was not a particularly distinctive bull. Although it had a beautiful 6x6 rack, it was still a young animal albeit one with excellent  potential to grow into an exception bull had this not happened. It is not one that stood out above the rest of the herd for any particular reason and so would not be a "character" bull that was known to a lot of photographers and elk watchers.

The first question someone usually asks is what did they do with the elk?  I have not corresponded with WCO McDowell about this, but based on my past experience as a PGC Deputy and Maintenance worker I would expect that the elk would be not fit for human consumption. It is possible that the hide was saved and extremely likely that the antlers were salvaged and will end up being exhibited in an information/education display at some point.

Deaths from fighting are not an every day occurrence during the rut, but they are not rare either and it seems that one usually hears of one or more bulls dying each year from injuries received in a fight.

I wish to extend special thanks to Ron "Buckwheat "Saffer  for sharing his photos of the incident with us.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Dina said...

I'm glad you showed this, Willard.

Linda Gross said...

It is a shame to see beautiful wildlife of any kind dead. However, I would much rather see a dead elk caused by an elk-to-elk fight than a dead elk killed by a hunter.

Laney B said...

I agree 100% with Linda! Sad but its a part of life for Elk Bulls.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

This is the way of nature,but it is still sad to see when a beautiful animal like that has to die because of a fight wound.

Kritter Keeper at Farm Tails said...

This is very sad to see. I did not know they could die ... The elk seem more serious than my deer . My little autumn was gored last year resulting in a hole that pierced the thin skin between the shoulder blades which took about eight months to heal. One time a huge horse fly was trying to get in the hole and stupid me was appalled and threw a handful of corn at the hole... Yes the horse fly left but a kernel remained in there... Thankfully it made its way out. Poor little autumn had no clue what I was doing and just gave me a bewildered look. :-).

Lindsjö taxar said...

Thats nature!!! Could he not be food for Crows, coyotes and so on?
Great report , interesting to read

Paul Griffin said...

Sure hate to see that meat go to waste. Would have loved to have tagged that beautiful creature and filled my freezer! Roasts, steaks, jerky, salami and back straps galore! MmmmMmm mmm Good!

Anonymous said...

Okay, you people make me laugh.

The elk are competing with one another for the right to breed. Their fighting isn't meant as a spectacle for those of us watching, it is a life and death struggle and truly defined as "survival of the fittest." It's not "sad", it's the way the world works. There are no second place trophies in nature.

And for you anti-hunting types, shall I remind you that the only reason these elk are in PA is BECAUSE of modern hunters and the value they place on the conservation of natural resources? The Eastern Elk was "hunted" to extinction in the 1800's, not for sport but out of necessity by the farmers whose crops they decimated. As the conservation movement grew at the turn of the century, the herd was reintroduced to the state using stock from western states. All the money used to originally transport them here, to acquire land to support them, to educate the public on their welfare, and to maintain the herd comes directly from the PA Game Commission and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. For you to say that elk shouldn't be hunted is as naive as it is unfair to those who have footed the bill for their very existence.

Oh, and to those of you who have "pet" deer, remember... a fed deer is a dead deer.

You should educate yourself on a subject matter before speaking to it.

Adam Prusinowski said...

Linda is a very ignorant or naive person to leave that comment

Mr. Ego, to you. said...

Honestly people, stop anthropomorphizing these animals. Yes, you can grieve for the dead, you are human. But don't put your feelings into an animal that does this for shear necessity. For those who do not know what the word is I posted, here is the definition:

[ ànthrəpə máwr fz ]

treat nonhuman thing as human: to give a nonhuman thing a human form, human characteristics, or human behavior

Susan Tippett said...

I agree with you Adam. Linda, I am curious if you are a vegan. Do you eat meat? If so, please take time to educate yourself on how that meat in the grocery stores gets there. Most hunters are respectful of the environment and the animals in it. I for one would rather see an animal be wild and killed by a hunter than go through a large scale commercial operation.

Suz said...

As a life member of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation I am pleased to read the response from 464643b4-4637-11e3-91ae-000bcdcb8a73. The foundation has worked with local chapters and other to preserve the species by relocation, habitat partnerships and other means.

Pianoman said...

To Linda:Just so you know, there wouldn't be any elk in PA unless hunter conservationists had given their money and their volunteerism to transplant them there. You may not want to hunt and that's your choice. But you need to know that hunters spend more money and give more time to wildlife conservation than all other animal groups combined. Without hunters, the elk in this story would likely never have been born.

weiserbud12 said...

Yeah because feeding my family is appalling. Your stupid, your an animal remember?