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SALT LAKE CITY — A pair of large bull elk were caught and relocated Monday after being seen wandering through Salt Lake City's Yalecrest and East Bench neighborhoods the past few days.
State conservation officers located and tranquilized two bull elk in a yard outside of a home on Laird Avenue near 1100 East, shortly before noon Monday, according to Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman Scott Root. The elk were then transported to Utah County, where they were to set to be released in the wilderness.
Several residents in the area reported seeing the large elk roaming around their lawns on Saturday. They were spotted again Sunday, prompting Salt Lake City police to advise residents not to approach the wildlife. In all, there were three elk spotted in the general area.
When two of the elk reappeared Monday, conservation offers decided to tranquilize and relocate the elk as a precaution because they kept moving closer to the city's center, Root explained. The spot where officers tranquilized the elk is just a little more than four blocks east of Liberty Park.
"We can't have big mature bull elk roaming around in the city," he told KSL.com. "At nighttime, you don't want to run into one of those with those antlers and big bodies. It's a very definite safety concern to have big animals like that roaming around."
Biologists sawed the elks' antlers off because they were too large to fit inside the division's trailer. Bull elk typically shed their antlers in the late winter and early spring, so they were due to fall off naturally anyway, division officials said. Root added that conservation officers are tracking the third elk in case it needs to be relocated at another time.
It's unclear what drew the elk to the city, though Salt Lake City police tweeted that it's possible that freshly-salted roads lured them in. Some wildlife, especially deer, are more likely to wander into urban communities when there is heavy snowfall in the mountains. Root said elk tend to fare better in heavier mountain snow, which is why this elk sighting is relatively rare.
"Snow can play a factor, and cold temperatures can also play a factor ... in the winter months," he said. "They probably found plenty of vegetation to feed on in a backyard or two, so they probably weren't in a hurry to head back up into the snow."
Root also applauded residents for avoiding the elk as much as possible as the elk made their rare visit. Wildlife Aware Utah advises people to give elk "a lot of space" because they can move fast and cause a lot of damage.
People are advised to not feed elk if they approach a home or cabin, especially because of the threat of chronic wasting disease. Drivers are advised to slow down when approaching elk or elk habitats, as well.
Residents who spot large wildlife wandering into communities are advised to contact their local law enforcement's non-emergency number or the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
"We're the experts. We're the ones who will be able to come and successfully ... relocate them," Root said. "If you do have something like a moose or a big bull elk in town, give us a call and we'll respond."
Contributing: Matt Gephardt, KSL-TV