KUSA – She’s not afraid of people and will even walk into their homes uninvited. Some don’t seem to mind, but others do and have reported their concerns to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The young, female elk is well-known to neighbors who live near Walker Ranch west of Boulder.
“I call her Maybelle,” said Somerset McCarty. “I’ve only met her three times.”
Maybelle, who some also call Marie, has visited McCarty’s home off Flagstaff Road.
“She’ll eat grass, walk on the deck, you know, check in, say hi to the dogs,” McCarty said.
McCarty has three golden retrievers, Magic, Popcorn and Powder. He recalled the first time Magic met Maybelle.
“I grabbed [Magic] right away and [Maybelle] just stood there and looked at me, but I was worried that maybe she was going to attack him,” he said. “Not at all. She was waiting for me to pet her.”
The elk McCarty calls “the shining star” of his neighborhood has been known to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for about a year and a half.
“It is our understanding based on multiple sources that a local resident picked up the elk when it was a calf and illegally and improperly raised it,” said Kristin Cannon in an email to 9NEWS.
Cannon is an Area Wildlife Manager who’s become familiar with stories of Maybelle approaching people.
“Whoever did this, created this situation and did a huge disservice to the animal and wildlife in general,” she said.
Cannon said CPW received concerning reports from neighbors worried that the elk might be dangerous.
“We have firsthand reports that she approaches people, has no fear of people, is difficult to scare away, has pushed out the screen in a window, and enters homes,” she said.
CPW received secondhand reports that people have fed the elk and that she’s pursued dog walkers and chased after cyclists. McCarty said Maybelle is friendly and harmless.
“I think overall, the neighbors really appreciate her and we don’t want anything to happen to her,” he said.
Wildlife officials appreciate the connection neighbors have made with the animal, but they’re ultimately concerned about public safety and what’s best for the animal.
“When [people] start habituating wildlife to human behavior it forces the agency’s hand in sometimes ways that we would prefer not to have to go,” said CPW spokesperson Lauren Truitt. “That could ultimately mean a euthanization of a wild animal.”
“I don’t think putting her down is even an option. I mean she is completely harmless,” McCarty said. “That would never even cross my mind.”
Truitt said CPW officers were not actively tracking the elk, but were closely monitoring the situation.
While Maybelle may not be aggressive now, her behavior could change if she breeds and gives birth to a calf. Truitt also warned that feeding wild animals can put them at a major disadvantage.
“They could end up starving themselves to death because they forget how to be a wild animal,” she said.
Truitt said people need to be good neighbors to wildlife.
“You don’t bring them in when they’re young, you don’t hand-rear them and keep them as pets,” she said.
McCarty doesn’t want to see Maybelle go. He was reluctant to speak about her in the first place, fearing publicity might encourage wildlife officials to go after her. He hasn’t seen Maybelle on his property in a while but hopes she’ll visit again.
“It puts me in complete ease,” he said. “If I’m having a bad day, if I see her, it’s absolutely wonderful.”