Watch: Wash. deputies use knife duct-taped to metal rake to save elk stuck in tree swing

"To make it worse, I think there's a bee hive right here somewhere," one of the officers says as he reaches to cut one of the ropes

By Kristine Sherred
The News Tribune

TACOMA, Wash. — A young bull elk was discovered in the woods of Western Washington, his antlers tangled in the ropes of a rustic tree swing. When the nearby property owner called the police, officers responded by calming the creature, duct-taping a knife to the wooden handle of a metal rake and setting the animal free.

Body camera footage shared Sept. 29 shows the multi-step process two Pierce County Sheriff deputies took to rescue the animal on Sept. 1, 2023.

The officers were recently regaling the tale to colleagues, said sheriff spokesperson Sgt. Darren Moss. When they realized there was a video of the whole affair, Moss tapped it for his weekly video series spotlighting officers' work in the field, which usually are released every Friday.

Just before 8:30 a.m. on the first Friday in September, the owner of a property near the 21400 block of 127th Avenue East in Graham, just south of Puyallup and 25 miles southeast of Tacoma, called to report an injured animal.

The officers crossed a fence to reach the wooded area. In the video footage, they slowly approach the elk, who can be seen running around the large tree to which the swing was attached. He's shaking his head to and fro, trying to break his antlers free from the ropes.

Using the tools they had on hand (a razor blade), one of the officers steps toward the animal, saying, "It's OK buddy. Easy boy."

You can hear the elk, by now standing very still, panting.

"To make it worse, I think there's a bee hive right here somewhere," one of the officers says as he reaches to cut one of the ropes. "Easy partner," he says to the elk.

The officer explains that he's using the tree as a barricade — both to stay a safe distance from the elk and to avoid the wooden seat of the swing once it's cut loose.

In the background, his partner replies, "He'll come right at you!"

The officer says matter-of-factly, "I know."

Elk can grow to five feet tall and weigh between 700 and 1100 pounds, according to the United States Forest Service, making them second in the deer family only to moose. If aggravated, they can become aggressive.

Moss told McClatchy that both of the officers who responded to this call are hunters.

"That call couldn't have been answered by anyone else in the department," he said, noting that when he first watched the footage, he couldn't believe they had gotten that close.

The second officer asked the property owner to borrow some tools. He returned to the site with a lopper (long-handled pruning shears), a rake and a roll of duct tape.

The first officer manages to snip another of the ropes with the shears, tumbling backward when the elk jumps.

"Yeah, I'm good," he says as he gets back on his feet.

Eventually, they tape the razor blade to the rake handle. In the final frames of the video, the officer, holding the metal end of the rake, is face-to-face with the elk. You can hear the scraping of the blade on the final rope.

As it breaks, the elk gallops away from the officers and into the distance.

"I know, we could have used a tranquilizer, but we didn't have Fish & Wildlife or game wardens available," Moss said in the video shared on the Pierce County Sheriff's blog. "Honestly the deputies did a great job of using their tools — or what they could borrow — to cut this guy down so that he wasn't gonna hurt himself, or stay tied to that swing and end up dying out there."

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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