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.