When Elk Came to Dinner
By Cody Bloomsburg, Bugle Intern
A free meal was the reward after a day of fence remodeling at the Torstenson Wildlife Center (TWC) in central New Mexico, but the RMEF volunteers in attendance had no idea they would be joined by about 450 drop-in guests.
Arkansas state chair Sam Culpepper and his wife Gloria were among the 20 or so volunteers of all ages who were sitting down to a pot-luck style cookout at one of TWC’s irrigated alfalfa fields when the herd of elk swept into view. It was as if they were there to share a meal with those who had just spent a day working on their behalf.
Volunteers refurbished a ¾-mile section of barbed-wire fence to make it elk friendly, raising the bottom wire for calves to scoot under and lowering the top wire from 48 inches to 36 for cows and bulls to leap over.
Built to keep cattle out of an alfalfa field, the fence had become an elk-hair-entwined testament to the flourishing number of wapiti trying to cross it to get to critical forage, says TWC director Tony Pachelli. It was only a matter of time before one became entangled.
The work occurred during the second week in August 2009, and it was the first time the Culpeppers had been to the ranch.
“It was great,” Sam says. “My wife did the cooking and I did the fence pulling. Everybody treated us like royalty. We had a really good time.”
Pachelli says there are still miles of fence in need of modification for elk, and he plans to schedule more volunteer work weekends in the future.
“With all there is to do on a ranch like this, it’s hard to find the time for projects such as these. Volunteers play a huge and important role in making them happen,” he says. “On behalf of everyone at the ranch, I would like to thank all of our volunteers for what they bring to and do for TWC and the RMEF.”
It may seem like an insignificant act—moving one wire up and one wire down—but its importance was made to clear to Pachelli last fall as he watched countless elk cross the modified fence without so much as losing a hair from their tawny underbellies.