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Antlers, skull of popular bull elk in national park located

Kahuna was a very popular elk, described as majestic with distinct large antlers. He was widely photographed during his lifetime.
Credit: Dawn Wilson Photography
A 2021 photo shows a bull elk, referred to as Kahuna, in Rocky Mountain National Park

ESTES PARK, Colo. — The missing skull and one attached antler from a popular, large bull elk in Rocky Mountain National Park have been located by park rangers. 

Kahuna – also known as Bruno or Big Thirds – was a "majestic elk with distinct large antlers and was widely photographed during his lifetime," according to a news release from the park.

In March, area photographers and visitors to the park highlighted the passing of the admired bull elk. Many of those images showed Kahuna's carcass.

Rangers said they believe Kahuna died of natural causes, after reports that he was injured in last year's mating season and was very underweight in February. 

The park said sometime between March 20 and 22, someone "cut and illegally removed the skull and remaining antler from the carcass." They believe his other antler was shed before his death.

On Saturday, park rangers were notified that an elk skull matching the one missing from Kahuna's carcass had been found. Rangers believe the skull was relocated after being cut from the carcass. 

Park rangers thanked the media, social media and the local community in helping to locate the skull and antler. 

Rangers said no other information is available and it's an ongoing investigation. They also gave a reminder to park visitors that the collection of antlers and removing wildlife or their parts is illegal within the park. Violators can face criminal charges and be mandated to appear in federal court. 

Anyone with information on this illegal incident in the park, including information on the remaining shed antler, is asked to call 1-888-653-0009 or visit the NPS Anonymous Tip Information.   

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