With his large antlers and dark ruff, a recent visitor to the Gretna area has gained lots of attention from local residents.
First sighted near 204 and Harrison streets in late September to early October, a bull elk was caught on camera between some homes and Highway 6.
“It’s been in that general area most of the fall,” said Luke Meduna, big game program manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
This year’s sightings have put the animal near 170th and Schramm and, more recently, near Wehrspann Lake.
While this year’s numbers are a bit higher than years past, Meduna said it’s not uncommon to see three or four elk wander over to the eastern part of the state each year.
“Last fall, from Hastings on east to the Missouri River, we figured we had about six bull elk wandering area that we were able to identify from reports, visual observations, trail cameras and photos sent to us,” he said.
Bull elk tend to wander in September and October, searching for a harem of females to mate with.
“A lot of the times, the ones that wander east tend to be younger bulls,” Meduna said. “They tend to strike out looking for elk in other areas and they go this way and they’re not going to have a lot of luck.”
Since Game and Parks track the elk through evidence — not tracking devices — officials are often unsure of the eventual outcome for these animals.
“If they find an area they’re comfortable in, they’ll stay,” Meduna said. “We’re aware of a bull up near Ravenna that’s been hanging out with a group of cows for a few years.
“Some keep wandering and will end up making a loop back to where they came from while some might continue east into Iowa or Missouri.”
“A lot of times they tend to disappear on us over time.”
Locals who spot the animal are advised to leave it alone and admire from afar.
“Keep your distance, that’s the big thing,” Meduna said. “At this point now, we know it’s there. If it’s creating an issue, people can definitely get ahold of us.
“We’re pretty well aware of it, but we do like hearing about new elk reports outside of their normal range in Nebraska. It never hurts to let us know.”