Growing up, I was always told there was no such thing as a dumb question, except for the one not asked.
So, Betty Lou, there is nothing dumb about your question, In fact, I took photos a couple days ago, just in case someone would ask.
"How do you get a collar on an elk?"
A question pretty easily answered when you actually get to see an open collar.
As you can see, the collars are like short leather belts. You wrap it around the elk's neck (leaving room for four fingers between their neck and the collar), and bolt it on.
Bolting is done with two double-headed brass bolts
that slip into pre-punched paired holes in the collar. Then the extra collar length is snipped off.
A couple things should become apparent once you look at the collar design.
First, you can't use it on bulls. Like other deer, their necks swell up to almost double their normal size during the rut. Four fingers of free space wouldn't be enough room, and they could choke on the collar. Leaving the collars looser is no solution, since critters may get a front hoof caught through collars that are too loose.
Secondly, you can't use it on calves. Again, no room for the neck to grow, and too dangerous to let hang too loose. There are designs, though, of expandable collars that enlarge (usually through loose stitches designed to tear out under pressure) as the animal grows.
Just a side note on the collars. They come in plain brown leather. Not exactly the easiest thing to see on a brown animal. So, I got to sit on the bed, watching tv with the wife and heelers, one Sunday evening wrapping each of the collars in the bright yellow and red duct tape.
Not sure how long the tape will last. Certainly longer than the numbers. Turns out the "indelible" ink pen designed for cattle eartags wouldn't hold to the plastic tape at all. So the numbers are just magic marker, with the indelible ink mixed in. Not a big concern, however, since a study with several hundred collared antelope twenty years ago received less than two percent of their observations from people actually seeing and reading collars in the wild.
Like the antelope study, we'll get almost all of our reobservations of these elk from radio-tracking from the air.
Assuming the bosses who pushed so hard for this study can ever come up with some money to fly...
But anyway, back to the collars.
After marking the eighth elk, the chopper had to refuel on a high snowy part of the Continental Divide (Pacific branch).
We met them there, and helped stretch out and repack the cargo nets for shooting out on the elk while the bird was fueled.
As they were preparing to take off after the final two elk, the pilot pulled me aside, extracting one of the remaining collars from the back seat. Seems I had overestimated the size of an elk. Or, more specifically, the size of a cow elk's neck. They were having to go clear up into the taped area of the collars to fasten them down, and my taping job had covered all the holes.
A problem they had rectified with some sharp instrument whilst flying across the countryside. But still I suspect it had been a rude surprise on the first elk down.
The cool thing is, he made a point of pointing it out in private, not in front of everybody else.
Yeah, he'll get my business if we ever need to collar anything again.
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