East Boulder County Farm Sees Visitation by ‘Spirit Elk’
On a small farm just east of U.S. 287 near Longmont live three pigs, two oxen, a couple of goats, about 20 chickens and a cow elk.
Yes, an elk.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife officers have known that for much of the past year, an elk has been making an extended stay at a property in the 10800 block of Oxford Road. In fact, Area Wildlife Manager Kristin Cannon said Thursday it had disappeared from the property for a spell during the fall, leading to speculation it had gone off and found a mate during rutting season, only to return possibly pregnant — which won’t be known for sure until calving season in June.
A reporter visiting the perimeter of the property on Thursday saw an empty dispenser for fliers, such as realtors often use, tacked to a fence post , bearing the words “take one.” Also on the dispenser was a notice suggesting people text the words “ElkSupport” to a local phone number to receive a specific web link.
That link takes visitors to a web page identified as ” Farmer Glen’s Online Affiliate Store ,” touting a “Healthy Gluten Free Non-GMO Recommended Shopping List” and a message from Glen Schultz.
Part of that message reads, “As an organic farmer who provides the very best for my family and members, I treasure foods that focuses (sic) on nutritional qualities such as flavor, smell and vigor. My online affiliate store delivers the same high-quality right to your door step. Complementary to fresh local grown produce, these nutrient-rich foods that are the highest quality, easy to use and take on the go.”
By teaming up with like-minded growers who market and package their products for shipping around the country, Schultz says he is able to offer customers the best quality and flavor experience available “year-round.”
The site does not mention an elk.
In an interview Thursday, Schultz described himself as a “regenerative farmer,” focused on improving the health of the soil — and in turn, what is produced from that soil.
“I have been focusing on growing soil, and in doing so, it grows better tasting fruits and vegetables and maybe even grasses,” Schultz said. “One theory (explaining the elk’s presence) is that she is attracted there, because things taste better to her. She can go anywhere she wants. Really, if you were an elk, you would think your friends are one thing. But, food is another.”
Cannon said that while the presence of an elk east of U.S. 287 is rare, it is hardly without recent precedent. One was frequenting the Frederick-Firestone area a few years back, she said.
More recently, an elk also was seen hanging around Founders Park in Superior , likely a visitor that had strayed from nearby Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
Historically, Cannon said, elk were more numerous on the high plains and not so restricted to the foothills and mountains.
‘Just eating off the grass’
Schultz lives in the Longmont area but not at the Oxford Road address, which he describes as a demonstration farm, where he owns 1½ acres and leases another five from Boulder County.
Cannon, when she learned of Schulz’s posting concerning “elk support,” said, “Well, that would make sense, for why it is sticking around so much.”
She said a district wildlife manager for the area has previously contacted the property owner.
“Our officer was told that the elk was incidentally eating some of the feed (intended) for the cows, but was not being fed,” Cannon said. “This (‘elk support’ sign) opens the door to the possibility that someone is actually feeding the elk.”
That, she said, would be a violation of CPW regulation No. 021 , which states that “no person shall place, deposit, distribute or scatter grain, hay, minerals, salt, or other foods so as to intentionally constitute a lure, attraction or enticement for big game not lawfully held in captivity.”
To do so, she said, is an unclassified misdemeanor under Colorado law.
But on Thursday, Schultz was adamant no one is deliberately feeding the young elk.
“The elk is just eating off the grass, which then causes me to buy more hay for the cows,” Schultz said. “Neighbors have offered to bring hay and stuff like that to support the elk. I could take the hay and feed my cows, to make up for the feed that the elk ate.”
‘You might be haunted’
Schultz said he has had “several conversations” with wildlife officers, and has assured them that rather than feeding the elk, he takes deliberate steps to cover or restrict its access to food intended for his livestock.
“The elk grazes anywhere on the farm that she wants,” he said. “I don’t set out a bowl for her or throw out hay for her. She could jump the fence and then just go graze” an alfalfa field to the south if it chose, he said.
Schultz said he has dubbed the elk “Spirit Elk,” noting that two other wayward elk in Boulder, one named Big Boy and another more recent visitor residents called Larry , both met unfortunate ends. Big Boy was illegally shot and killed by a now-former police officer on Jan. 1, 2013 in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood, and Larry was put down by state wildlife personnel Nov. 4 on north Broadway in Boulder because it was ailing with a fractured jaw.
The name “Spirit Elk,” Schultz said, is intended as a way of protecting it — along with having also posted a “no hunting” sign.
“I don’t think would-be hunters would want to kill the ‘Spirit Elk.’ You might be haunted,” he said with a laugh.
“I wouldn’t call her ‘Beef-y.’ And I wouldn’t call her ‘Steak-y.’”
Cannon said she will be referring the situation back to the district wildlife manager covering that section of Boulder County to ensure the ungulate is not being illegally fed.
“We’d love to leave the elk alone and would like other people to leave it alone, so that we can leave it alone,” Cannon said.
Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/chasbrennan