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Old bull elk dies peacefully near Canmore with unlikely friend at his side
CALGARY -- Angus the husky looks a lot like a wolf — an elk’s mortal enemy — but despite the odds, he and a well-known bull elk became friends to the very end.
Marvin, as some Canmore locals called the big bull, was a local fixture. The elk would wander the town, often spending time near the Alpine Club of Canada clubhouse.
But after a few visits, and the occasional game of tag in the backyard, Marvin’s last visit was noticeably different.
He’d shed his antlers as all elk do in spring. While still massive, he’d lost weight. One of his knee joints was visibly misshapen and he was having trouble getting up. It looked like the end was getting close.
One night late last week, Derek West figured old Marvin had run out of trail. The elk had been in the yard for four days, hadn’t moved for hours and his breathing was shallow.
And Angus wouldn’t leave his side.
"(Angus) usually come in to go to bed around 10:30 or 11," said West. "He just wouldn’t come in that night. I don’t think (Marvin) was alive for more than a couple more hours after that."
By morning big Marvin was dead, his body found beneath the spruce trees outside West’s back door.
Although wildlife is generally the province's responsibility, Town of Canmore sent a public works crew the next day to retrieve Marvin’s mortal remains from the backyard and dispose of them.
The old bull may be gone, but he got out of life better than most elk.
There is a saying in wildlife circles that winter weakens and spring kills - the old and the sick are weakened by cold weather and poor food - and the nutritious first growth of spring doesn’t always arrive in time to stop their decline.
Wolves are a major predator of adult elk and, in some parts of North America, black and grizzly bears account for as much as 40 per cent of elk calf mortality.
Marvin beat the odds and spent his last hours with a friend. A fate more peaceful than that of most of his relatives.