A Wichita woman escaped injury Tuesday night after colliding with a wild bull elk near 140th Avenue and East U.S. 54.
Michelle Tedrow, 50 of Wichita, was westbound in a 2007 Honda CRV when she collided with a large bull elk on the roadway at 10:54 p.m., said Pratt County Sheriff Sgt. Jimmy White.
When the accident was reported to the Pratt Law Enforcement Center, the animal was identified as a large deer.
However, when White arrived on the scene, he immediately recognized the animal as a large bull elk. The animal was injured and scared, White said.
Tedrow was wearing a seatbelt and not injured in the accident. The vehicle was damaged but drivable. The elk was injured so severely that White had to put the animal down.
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism were notified and they took possession of the carcass.
Another elk has recently been sighted in Pratt County. On Oct. 7, Jeana Clark saw and photographed an elk west of Pratt and followed it to Byers black top.
Jeff Pricer, a member of a harvest crew, reported seeing an elk in a field north and east of Preston just inside Reno County in late September, said Pricer's friend Ryan Rose.
Elk are very rare in Pratt County. Since 2005, a sighting as occurred about every other year. At least one of those was an escaped captive, said Matt Peek, a research biologist and the Elk Program coordinator for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
Elk have been seen sporadically in the western half of the state. There are several places where they are known to reproduce, mostly in western Kansas but there is a very small herd, also called a gang, in Ford County and one in Reno County as well, Peek said.
The sightings in Pratt County may be coming from either of these gangs because elk are capable of moving a couple of hundred of miles. The Pratt County sightings could also be coming from further west.
Kansas has historically given good habitat to elk. If they are given a little bit of protection they have to potential to reproduce. Until they take up residence it is hard to predict where they will be, Peek said.
Because elk have come into Kansas, KDWPT established a hunting season several years ago. The season was established because some elk showed up in areas where landowners didn't want them. The season gave the landowners legal recourse to eliminate them.
Elk hunting permits are available for landowners and for hunters as well. The permit is valid for both private and public hunting although no elk gangs have been recorded on public lands.
"I don't know of any public lands that hold elk," Peek said.
While the area is experiencing elk it will be very unlikely that antelope will ever migrate this far east because they already have a lot of good habitat west of Pratt.
"Antelope will probably never establish in Pratt County. They don't do that well this far east," Peek said.
The appearance of elk will also not cause mountain lion to migrate. With all the deer in the area, if food were an issue for mountain lion they would have been here long before now, Peek said.
The state has three elk seasons: Muzzle loader Sept. 1 to Sept. 30; Archery Sept. 17 to Dec. 31; Firearm Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 then Jan. 1 to March 15.
Elk hunting permits cover Unit Three that is basically 98 percent of Kansas except for Unit One in Morton County and Unit Two on Fort Riley where most of the elk are found. Limited hunting permits are available for Fort Riley.