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Elk rescued from 30-foot abandoned mine shaft in southern Colorado

elk in mine shaft.png
Posted at 3:30 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 17:32:15-04

CREEDE, Colo. — Abandoned mine shafts are scattered across Colorado's high country, and some are hard to spot, both for hikers and wildlife.

When Creede resident Chere Waters stumbled upon a shaft off Bachelor Loop Road on Saturday, she found a surprise at the bottom: A 250-pound elk cow.

Waters and a fellow hiker contacted the Mineral County Sheriff's Department, and deputies and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officers. responded, according to a CPW news release. They estimated the mine shaft was about 30 feet deep, and they could see the elk's tracks at the edge of the shaft.

“It’s the scariest thing," Waters told CPW. "It’s at the edge of some trees so it’s hard to see."

After darting the animal, the rescuers used a winch from a truck, and Mineral County search and rescue manager Terry Wetherill was lowered into the hole. Wetherill placed straps around the elk, and the animal was pulled out of the hole.

CPW officer Brent Woodward said the elk appeared to be "pretty beat up," and might have been in the shaft for several days. But after examining the elk's condition and administering a drug to reverse the tranquilizer effect, the elk stood up and ran away.

Wetherill said dozens of old mine shafters are in the Creede area and most have collapsed and filled in, according to CPW. The mine shaft where the elk fell in was still secured with timbers and has likely been there for more than 100 years, Wetherill said.