An elk has escaped from its pen in Chapman Park in Stanley, and officials are trying to track it down to capture it. However, it appears it is already too late to bring it back to its herd in the confines of the park.
Stanley police chief Lance Weiland said he received a call Wednesday morning alerting him that one of the elk was missing. The park has seven captive elk — one male and six females.
“One of the elk was pregnant last week and was having complications, so they were in there, tranquilizing her,” Weiland said.
During this period, it appears one of the other female elk somehow crawled under the fence. Elk tracks were located outside the fence.
“With the trauma going on in recent days, it may have spooked it,” Weiland said.
The elk was likely born there and isn’t used to being out of captivity, he said.
There have been a few sightings.
“The area they’ve described is within a mile on the west side of city limits,” he said.
There is a time crunch to get the animal apprehended, he said.
“I know we have a ticking clock,” Weiland said. “Unless they can get it into a confined place, their best bet is to tranquilize it.”
Captive elk herds are regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, not by the Department of Natural Resources. Leeann Duwe, DATCAP spokeswoman in the Division of Animal Health, said that Chippewa County is considered to be a county impacted by chronic wasting disease, so under DATCAP policy, the elk would have to be back in the pen within 24 hours of its escape. Because that timeline has already passed, it will not be allowed back into the herd.
It will be up to area law enforcement to decide if the elk will be shot, she said.
“If they do decide to euthanize the animal, it will have to be tested for CWD,” Duwe said.
Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said he had three officers over helping look for it Thursday.
“We had our drones up,” Kowalczyk said. "We thought we had it on our infrared, but it turned out to be a deer. It’s good practice for our guys. It’s a good exercise with our drones. If we can prevent someone from hitting it, it’s worth it. Hopefully, we’ll find it (today).”
Kowalczyk reminded the public this animal has always lived in captivity, and it is unclear how it may react to seeing a person.
“Stay away from it and call us, and hopefully we’ll catch it,” Kowalczyk said.