Wyoming Hunter Bags 20 Year Old Cow Elk

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When elk hunter Terry Fass shot a cow elk up the West Fork of the Smith's Fork south of Mountain View he had no idea the elk was tagged during a research project over 19 years ago.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department records indicate the elk was captured April 15, 1987 on the Bald Range and a metal tag placed in her ear. The cow elk was already an adult at that time.

Mountain View Game Warden Rick King was intrigued at the rather antique looking tag and researched documents and earlier employees in the area to find the record.

It is very unusual for an elk or any big game animal to live that long. Biologists believe 12 to 13 years old is usually the oldest elk live in the wild. The oldest a wild elk has been known to live in Wyoming was 28 years.

"Rarely do we see elk reach 20 years of age in the wild," said Steve DeCecco, Game and Fish wildlife supervisor in Green River. "I'd like to think about the genetic and behavioral contributions this cow elk made to the health of the Uinta Elk Herd. I know elk are adapted for their habitats, but this is a feat."

There were two elk studies going on in the area in 1987. One was in cooperation the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources testing a new immobilization drug and another trying to determine elk seasonal ranges in the area.

Meanwhile, amidst all the excitement at Game and Fish, Fass took the elk to a taxidermist and plans to make some elk skin clothing to use at future Fort Bridger Rendezvous.