Friday, Oct. 3 a school bus filled with 28 seventh-grade students from Pinetop Blue Ridge School showed up in Christopher Creek at the gates to Hunter Creek eager to meet with Game and Fish and watch as they tagged and put a GPS collar on an elk. They had a female elk trapped in the cage set-up down by the pond in Hunter Creek. They all eagerly watched as Norris Dodd, Jeff Gagnon and Ray Schweinsburg from Game and Fish got ready to tag this elk.
The students, along with Carrol Godwin and Kurt Kerr, their teachers, were with the science club from Blue Ridge High School. As they stood by and waited I talked to Ben Thomas, the bus driver, who is also a retired teacher. He had some good stories to tell.
I guess being on a bus with many kids will make you a great storyteller. Then the questions started. One young lady said that it seemed sad to see the elk trapped in the cage. Dodd told the students it was better this way, rather than using drugs on the animal, and that at no time was the elk in danger. He explained to the students that it was a science and that it was a way to get data and keep the elk off the highway so they won't get killed.
Hay and salt were used to get the animal in the cage and there was a trip wire set up to release the door when the elk came inside. They were able to get the elk down and put the blindfold on her to keep her quiet. Then they tagged her ear and put her collar on. Dodd said that on April 1 the explosive device in the collar will make it fall off and Game and Fish will be able to track it and get the necessary information they need.
After the work was done, all the students backed up a little and watched as the men released her. The elk stood up and took off into the forest with no problems at all. The students were able to see first hand how the trip wire worked and the process of tagging and putting a Global Positional Satellite receiver collar on an elk. It seemed as if the students enjoyed it. As they headed back home they probably had many stories to tell.
You need to be careful when driving through the Kohl's Ranch area. The third phase of construction on Highway 260 near Kohl's Ranch is currently under way and the trees are being cleared. Traffic is to be slowed down for this project, so be careful when driving through this area for it is very congested with loggers taking out trees. Slow down and follow speed limit signs.