Saga of human-raised bull elk continues: Animal back in Fish and Game custody

A young bull elk, given a second chance at freedom when returned to the wild country of Bear Valley, Idaho, in mid-August, is back in captivity. On Sunday, Idaho Fish and Game officers found the young bull about three miles from its original release site where they contained and transported the bull to a Fish and Game holding area.

A renewed search is now underway to find an accredited facility that will take the young bull. A nationwide search conducted just after the bull’s capture in mid-August found no takers.

The bull elk was illegally removed from the wild as a calf in the spring of 2018 and raised in captivity by a resident of Sweet, Idaho. Months later, a Fish and Game investigation led to the release of the young bull, which left the area during the winter. But it returned to Sweet this spring, and that’s when Fish and Game began receiving phone calls from area residents concerned for the safety of their children as the 400-pound ungulate roamed the town, unafraid of humans. With the fall rut approaching, things could only get worse.

Officers made several trips to Sweet in efforts to locate and capture the elk. On Aug. 19, the elk was finally caught and transported to Bear Valley, north of Lowman, Idaho. With plenty of elk in the Bear Valley area, it was hoped that the young bull would integrate into one of the local herds. But after two weeks in the wild, the young bull appears uninterested in its own kind, instead approaching curiosity seekers who have driven to Bear Valley in the hopes of spotting the animal.

It’s now obvious that the young bull is too habituated to humans to make the journey back to its wild roots. Instead it will live out its days in captivity.

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