When an elderly cow elk wandered into Boise’s North End recently, she captured the hearts of many living in the neighborhood. So when the animal — nicknamed Ada — was euthanized Friday evening, some on social media wondered if humans or hazardous plants were to blame for the animal’s death.
Not so, said Idaho Department of Fish and Game officer Bill London, who euthanized the elk Friday evening.
“Most people were pretty good about giving her room,” said London, who had determined the elk was quite old when she was initially spotted roaming the city. At that time, officials thought the animal might make her way back to the Foothills to live out her final days.
London said that around 7 p.m. Friday, the Boise Police Department contacted Fish and Game because the animal’s condition had declined. She was stopped in the road near 12th and Fort streets, where a BPD officer was attempting to coax her to a yard with some water. By the time London arrived at the scene half an hour later, Ada was laying on her side in a yard at the intersection. She was bleeding from her mouth and rectum, likely a result of organ systems shutting down.
“She seemed disoriented,” London said. “She was barely breathing. She couldn’t even lift her head up.”
London said Fish and Game officials made the decision to euthanize the elk. He used a small-gauge rifle — a .22 — to shoot the animal at close range. London said the whole process was very quick, and despite some concerned locals’ questions, he doesn’t believe the animal could have been rehabilitated at that point.
“Death was imminent. She was dying,” he said. “I think it was just her time.”
After performing a necropsy, London said he doesn’t believe Ada had eaten any yew — a popular landscaping plant that is poisonous to humans and animals. He also didn’t think Ada had been hit by a car or otherwise injured by humans in any way.
“I think what we saw here was a completely natural thing,” London said. “This was her winter to die.”
Ada turned out to be a bit older than the average elk, as well. London spoke to regional wildlife biologist Michelle Kemner, who said cow elk from Ada’s herd live to be around 12 to 15 years old. Based on Ada’s teeth, many of which were missing or worn down to the gumline, London thinks she could have been in the upper range of 16 to 20 years old.
Upon hearing of Ada’s death, some members of a North End Facebook group posted memorial photos and proposed potential T-shirts and engraved headstones. Someone left a makeshift memorial near where the elk died.
London said there’s a positive spin to be found in Ada’s short-lived presence in the North End.
“I think people can be glad they got to experience it,” he said. “They got to learn how to live with the animals that come into our area.”