Neal Maine/For The Daily Astorian
GEARHART — An elk cow protecting its calf apparently charged a bicyclist on Monday in Gearhart and was tranquilized and brought to safety by police, firefighters and officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
But aggression remains as calving season creates risks for beachgoers and passers-by.
“I’m not sure if we have an elk issue or a people issue at this point,” City Administrator Chad Sweet said. “It’s definitely the wildlife and people coming together creating this issue.”
Aggressive elk were reported to Gearhart Police late last week.
On Thursday, elk were reported chasing a family near the Highlands Golf Course.
“We haven’t had anything on the golf course itself,” said Mayor Matt Brown, who is also the golf professional at Highlands. “But apparently some folks got chased on the beach near the Highlands and ran up into the neighborhood to the course.”
In another incident, children on Little Beach encountered an aggressive female elk. “They dropped their skimboards, towels, equipment and ran,” Sweet said.
The elk blocked the children from retrieving their boards for several hours, he said.
Later Friday, a woman and four dogs — three of them off-leash — were also menaced by the elk before she and another person were able to get the dogs under control. Reports of aggressive elk were also reported in the Gearhart communities of Surf Pines and Pinehurst, Sweet said.
In response, the city added warning signs on the beach and sent out email alerts.
Monday morning, Sweet said, a bicyclist was charged by an elk near 10th Street in Gearhart, prompting a call to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and State Police.
No injuries were reported as officials responded to the scene.
Beach access was blocked as members of the Department of Fish and Wildlife moved close enough to shoot the elk with a tranquilizer dart, according to Gearhart Fire Chief Bill Eddy.
“The elk was postured up by the flagpole on 10th Street next to the Windward condos in a defensive position,” Eddy said. “They shot it one time with a tranquilizer and it didn’t work. They waited about 15 or 20 minutes later and shot it again. It started getting a little bit drowsy, but it was stubborn. You couldn’t get close to it. It was just wobbling around.”
Using a long pole with a syringe on the end of it, about 20 minutes after the second dart, wildlife officials were able to get close enough to stick it with the syringe and subdue the elk, Eddy said.
At about 1 p.m., the city sent out a request for volunteers to search for the calf. “Some locals who saw the blog found the baby pretty close to where the flagpole was just to the northwest of the flagpole,” Sweet said. “The baby was fine — in fact it got up to run away once it was found. ”
A state police officer carried the young elk into a container to rejoin the mother, Sweet said.
“This elk and baby were moved, but it is going to happen again,” he said. “There could be another female elk out there with its own young with this same issue.”
According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife the female elk and her calf were transported to God’s Valley wildlife area. The calf was reunited with its mother prior to release, walking through the field to the treeline of the forest.
While calving season is late this year — it typically occurs in April, May or June — the behavior of the mother elk is normal, Eddy said.
“When they first drop, especially when the babies are small, they’re unable to stay with the herd,” Eddy said. “They break off from the herd. Mom gets very protective.”
“It’s definitely the wildlife and people coming together creating an issue,” Sweet added. “This time of year, we seem to have more reports of elk. If you see an elk and it is posturing against you, just back off and take another route. Give them their space and this will be a safer, happier summer.”