Maybe it was the leisurely way she nibbled rose bushes on Fort Street, or rested in the sun in the community garden near Boise High, or just went about her business, sauntering past North Enders’ doorways or peering over their fences. Whatever the reason, the elderly elk — named Ada by her fans — earned a spot in Boiseans’ hearts.
The elk showed up in Boise’s North End in early March, no doubt driven to lower elevations in search of food after the recent harsh winter. After her health declined, Idaho Fish and Game officers made the call to euthanize her on Friday, March 17.
Neighbors immediately looked for ways to memorialize the elk who came to town.
Jeannie McCarthy-Jaggi, a 20-year North End resident, decided to make memorial T-shirts. Metal artist Bill Fox and graphic designer Dave Green (who also maintains The North End website) offered their talents to design the shirts. Both shirt designs will go on sale April 8 for $17 at the Boise Co-op (9 a.m.-4 p.m.). McCarthy-Jaggi is paying to produce the shirts. She’ll take a portion of the sales to recoup her costs. The rest of the proceeds will go to the Animals in Distress Association, a local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation nonprofit.
Making the shirts was a spontaneous idea, said McCarthy-Jaggi.
Neighbors were saddened by Ada’s death, while acknowledging that her presence had been an unusual, lucky and somewhat magical thing in the neighborhood.
“I thought maybe we could do some good — a collective good deed,” said McCarthy-Jaggi.
Idaho River Sports, Hyde Perk, Java in Hyde Park have all offered to help sell the shirts, said McCarthy-Jaggi.
The shirts are not the sole remembrances of Ada.
Shortly after resident Jim Harper heard about Ada’s death, he went to Albertsons to buy flowers to place near the site where she died at Fort and 12th Streets. He also wrote a message to her, “Ada, rest in peace. Thanks for the memories,” on a big piece of cardboard. Others had left bouquets at the spot, he said.
“I’d never seen an elk before. I’ve lived here 10 years, but I’m a New England transplant. I think a lot of people were like me. We thought this was a unique situation. We tend to anthropomorphize wild animals. But it seemed like she loved our neighborhood, just like we do,” said Harper.
Artist and teacher Rick Friesen plans to paint Ada into a painting he’d made some time ago of the community garden on 12th Street. The garden was one of Ada’s favorite haunts during her time in the city.
“I think Ada touched a lot of people because she was out of her element, yet seemed right at home. Her shaggy hair and bony body made us wish the best for her. She came to the North End when we needed a spiritual distraction from the troubles of the world. Ada the elk will be remembered by many,” said Friesen.
Billy Fox, who created one of the t-shirt designs, also made a metal memorial plaque to be installed in the community garden.
For McCarthy-Jaggi’s part, she’s hoping the tale of Ada the North End Elk might have appeal beyond Boise. She’s sharing the story with late night host Stephen Colbert and sending him a t-shirt.
“You never know,” she said.