Vet helps elk snagged in tire swing after animal wanders into yard

Vet helps elk snagged in tire swing after animal wanders into yard

(Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

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PINE, Ariz. — An elk in distress knew right where to go to for help. It wandered into the yard of an Arizona veterinarian.

Debera Butler, DVM, visiting her place in the high country, wasn't expecting a house call.

But that's what happened at her home in Pine Saturday morning.

"It started before 8 a.m.," Butler said in a phone interview Sunday morning to KPHO/KTVK. Butler is a small animal doctor not used to working on big game.

"I was on my back patio, and I took a double take," she said. "I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me."

The elk that suddenly appeared at her home had its antlers entangled in rope and a tire from a swing.

But that's not all. There was also part of a tree limb the swing was attached to. It was hanging off the rope and every time the animal moved, the wood smacked him in the face.

"It was breaking my heart. The tire was on one side and this huge log was on the other side and this log was going back and forth smacking him in the face," Butler said.

Butler's instincts kicked in. She knew she had to do something to help out.

So began a 12-hour ordeal.

"I put some corn down, and he came up to my feeder," she said. "I knew I could get close to him."

Butler said her neighbor had a long tree cutter, but it kept spooking the elk.

She grabbed a pruning tool.

"So I would get a cut and then he'd kinda back up, and I just kept talking to him and then I'd get another cut," Butler said.

It took six different cuts to get the log off.

"That to me was my biggest miracle," Butler said. "He just went and laid (sic) down for a couple of hours. He was stressed and exhausted." As the day wore on, the elk kept close to her yard.

"I kept calm, saying, 'I'm trying to help you,'" Butler said.

She managed to cut away the bulk of the swing but couldn't get close enough to get the rope off the elk's antlers.

"I was constantly watching the antlers while I was trying to make the cuts," she said.

The last thing she wanted was to get gored.

After many tries, Butler gave up cutting the rope off. She said the elk will eventually shed the antlers anyway.

By 8 p.m., the animal finally wandered off in much better shape.

The tale of the tangled elk is one amazing episode Butler will long remember.

"Of all the houses to go to," the veterinarian laughed. "I'm now known as the elk whisperer."

A comment posted to the KPHO/KTVK Facebook page praised Butler for her good deed.

"That animal knew who would be able to help it! You are a credit to your profession! Thank you for sharing!" the Facebook user wrote.

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