Cle Elum’s favorite elk is on the move again.
Ellie, as we have named her (others in town also know her as “Button”), is a wild elk that was separated from her herd at a young age. She found a safe haven in the pasture of a nearby ranch, where she helped herself to the hay set out for the horses and cattle throughout the winter. She’s free to come as go as she pleases, since elk can easily jump the fences typically used to contain farm animals. In the warmer months, when food is plentiful, she wanders the Bristol Flats canyon and the side of Lookout Mountain, and because spring came early to the Northwest this year, she decided to venture over to the sanctuary this week for a visit.
She likes to stop by the sanctuary office to check up on us and the cats:
She also seems to enjoy teasing our dogs. They’ve never met an animal so unmoved by their barking and growling. But that doesn’t stop them from trying.
She greets all visitors to the sanctuary, including unsuspecting repairmen.
Seeing Ellie is always bittersweet. We’d love to see her rejoin a wild herd, but in the few times they have come back through the canyon, she has either declined to join them or was not accepted. In many ways, she probably has the same kind of identity confusion that we see in cross-fostered chimpanzees (chimps that were raised as if they were human). Perhaps she even sees herself as more cow or horse than elk.
But she certainly enriches the lives of the chimps. When they first saw her two years ago, they tried to scare her away from Young’s Hill. But unlike our dogs, they eventually realized that she wasn’t going anywhere, and now they greet her more with interest than with fear or territoriality.
Sandra, a Level 3 volunteer, was walking around the hill with Jamie yesterday when Ellie decided to make an appearance. She and Debbie put together this video: