CREEDE, Colo. (KDVR) – Wildlife and Sheriff’s officers near Creede rescued a cow elk on April 18 that had fallen some 30 feet down an old mine shaft.
Creede resident Chere Waters and her hiking partner were making their way up the Rio Grande Valley when she says her intuition led her to explore the trail off the Bachelor Loop Road just outside of town.
“I don’t know what it was, but something was drawing me to go up there,” Waters said. She remembered seeing a mine shaft there years ago.
It was lucky Waters made the trip. When she peered down into the hole she saw a 250-pound cow elk trapped inside. “So I looked in and see this animal in there. I was so surprised, I couldn’t believe it,” Waters said.
Waters’ friend called the sheriff’s office and a little over an hour later, Wildlife Officers Brent Woodward and Jeremy Gallegos arrived with Mineral County Sheriff’s officers.
“When I got the call I was told that a deer was stuck in a hole,” Woodward said. “But they thought the shaft was only about 10 feet deep. When I got there I could see it was an elk and it was probably 30 feet down.”
Woodward knocked the elk out with a tranquilizer and used a winch on one of his trucks to lower himself along with Search and Rescue manager Terry Wetherill into the hole. He says the 10 by 3-foot hole was large enough to secure straps around the animal.
He said that over the years he’s pulled deer and elk out of barbed-wire fences, “but I’ve never had to pull one out of a hole.”
The elk was craned back up slowly and allowed to lie on the ground for about 15 minutes while officers examined its condition. Woodward described the elk as “pretty beat up,” and could have been there for two or three days.
Gallegos then administered the drug that reverses the tranquilizer. “When she stood up, she moved a few yards, turned and looked at us for a few seconds and then turned and trotted away. It was great that we could get her out alive,” Woodward said. “It’s amazing that those ladies saw it.”
Wetherill said there are dozens of old mine shafts in the area but most have been filled in or have collapsed. He said this opening has probably been there for more than 100 years.
Wetherill says he is now talking to officials at the Rio Grande National Forest office and Mineral County to determine ownership of the shaft so that it can be covered.