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Gillette Hunter Harvests Collared Elk

Michael and Nikki Ganske harvested their cow elk in the Bighorn Mountains on opening day, Oct. 15, 2019.

Michael and Nikki Ganske both harvested cow elk in the Bighorn Mountains on opening day, Oct. 15, 2019.

Each year the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) reminds hunters of a few extra steps that must be taken when harvesting an animal equipped with a radio collar or transmitter.

“Many animals from deer to moose are fitted with collars that collect data, which are important to wildlife research,” said Tim Woolley, WGFD statewide wildlife and habitat management supervisor. “You can still harvest an animal that is wearing a collar. We just need the collars returned so we can use them again and know the animal we were tracking was harvested.”

That’s just what happened to Nikki Ganske while hunting in the Bighorn Mountains earlier this month.

Ganske and her husband, Michael, both were able to fill their cow elk tags on opening day, Oct. 15. As the picture clearly shows, the cow on the right was fitted with some sort of collar.

A life-long outdoorswoman, Ganske knew the collar was not simply an accessory and the WGFD would want the equipment back. Not only did the collar collect data on that particular animal, it will be reused to gather information on another animal.

WGFD officials ask that hunters not cut the collar. Doing so can damage the electronic components that extend into the band. Instead, hunters can simply unbolt the collar or slip it off over the animal’s head.

Ganske said in addition to the collar, the cow had also been ear tagged. Calling the number on the tag, she reached WGFD headquarters in Cheyenne.  From there, she was directed to call the Sheridan Regional Office, who then gave her the number for the Buffalo game warden.

After field dressing their animals, the couple took both cows to a processor in Buffalo.

Ganske said since it was opening day, she knew the game wardens would be checking with processors regularly.

She said she was excited to tell him she had bagged a “lo-jacked” elk, referring to the GPS tracking device often used to locate stolen vehicles.

With the two cow elk, the Ganskes filled their empty upright freezer and have quite a story to tell. It was Michael’s first elk and Nikki’s second.

The game warden allowed Ganske to keep the ear tag and also promised that once the data has been downloaded and hunting season wanes, she’ll be able to contact WGFD to learn where the animal was tagged and just how far she roamed.

“Sometimes we have animals that have been collared or radio-tagged in other states or by other agencies that turn up in Wyoming as well, and gaining insight into the travels of the animal allows managers to better understand their long-range movement patterns on the landscape,” said Woolley.

Other collared big game animals people may see include moose, mule deer, pronghorn and Bighorn sheep.