All in a day's work: bull elk attack on sheepherder

A medical helicopter was called to airlift Macha from the scene.

GRAND COUNTY, LA SAL MOUNTAINS — When somebody asks a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer if their day has been eventful, the officer usually responds with an enthusiastic "yes!" September 4 was no different for officers Dennis Shumway, TJ Robertson, Sgt. Ben Wolford and Lt. Justin Shirley.

The day began bright and early as the officers and other division employees made their way onto the La Sal mountain range east of Moab. Division personnel were working to release the mountain goats that were being moved to the La Sals to establish a new population. As the conservation officers were working, a man came running up to them and claimed that his friend, Hugo Macha, had been attacked by a bull elk!

The officers responded to the injured man and assessed that Macha had suffered puncture wounds to the chest, back and thigh. The man's lung was also punctured, and his shoulder was dislocated.

One of the officers, Dennis Shumway, is fluent in Spanish and was able to unravel the bizarre tale. The day before, Macha was quietly sitting in some brush in the shade when a bull elk walked very close to him. Macha stood up quickly and believed the elk would be frightened away. The elk gave chase and knocked him to the ground, goring him several times before leaving the area.

Macha walked several miles and found a fellow sheepherder friend. This friend left Macha and found DWR employees to report the attack and seek medical assistance. Sgt. Ben Wolford is an advanced EMT and was able to stabilize Macha by administering a saline IV, oxygen and bandaging. A medical helicopter was called to airlift Macha from the scene. Macha is recovering in a hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Officers believe the elk was surprised and startled when it found Macha. Driven by a "fight or flight" instinct, the elk reacted aggressively and gored Macha.

All DWR officers go through advanced CPR/first aid training and many are certified as First Responders and EMTs.

  • Torrey Christopherson
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