Zoo keepers at Pocatello Zoo, Idaho were astonished yesterday as they watched four-year-old elk “Shooter” stare reluctantly at his water trough before fishing out a struggling marmot which had got itself trapped in the water.
The elk, a huge male that some keepers at the zoo are often reluctant to go near because of his size first caught the attention of onlookers when he tried to put his front hooves into the water trough. Shooter the elk then uncharacteristically dumped his whole head in the water trough and it was only when he arose clutching a very wet marmot in his teeth that it became clear what he was up to.
Shooter then safely dumped the rodent on the grass before giving it a nudge with his hoof – presumably to check for signs of life. Sure enough, the marmot was okay and scurried off into nearby shrubbery, leaving the gathering keepers and onlookers astonished.
Fortunately for us, zoo keeper Kate O’Conner caught the whole event on camera, adding “it was really amazing. Shooter is such a huge animal – he stands at six feet tall without his antlers – which are another four feet, and he’s pretty scary”.
She added: “Some of the staff don’t like going in his enclosure with him – he’s punctured car tyres with his antlers before, so to see him being so gentle with a little animal was heart-warming. We all know he’s a real character, but I think he must have a soft side we didn’t know about.”
Kate O’Conner went on to explain the scene, saying “he was trying to dunk his head in the water, but his antlers kept getting in the way. Nobody could figure out why he was trying to get his head in, and then he started dipping his feet in. We were all completely confused, until we saw the marmot in his mouth.”
Dr Joy Fox, another zoo keeper said: “We think Shooter sensed that the animal was in distress and decided to help. However, he could have just decided he didn’t like having something in his way. He spent quite a bit of time planning how to grab it.”
Shooter’s magnificent antlers will be auctioned off later this year when they naturally shed from the animal.