3.19.2011

Freddy Anecdote: Is Fred Really Dead? An Article by Carol Mulvihill

Fred In 2005: collar removed in Photoshop
Carol Mulvihill, "The Elk Lady",  writes a column, "Elk Watcher's Journal" for Endeavor News, and is  known and respected for her fair and objective reporting on elk issues. She also enjoys observing and photographing the elk., and like many,  had a special interest in Bull 36, a.k.a. "Fred", "Freddy", or "Dogrope" and has graciously agreed to share an article with us about him.

Freddy anecdote:
Is Fred really dead?

By Carol Mulvihill

On various occasions, during the past two years, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has received calls from people thinking the free-ranging bull elk nicknamed Freddy, Fred Junior, or Dog Rope, wearing Game Commission research collar No. 36, was either dead or should be put down because he looked decrepit and could hardly walk.

Here are a couple of stories the Game Commission probably never heard.

Benezette resident Ron Rishel tells about an incident that happened the summer before last. He came upon Fred lying down like a dog with his neck flat on the ground, with no noticeable movements to indicate breathing.

“I hollered to him a couple of times and got no response,” Rishel said, “I was sure he was dead so I walked up to him and, standing behind him, I kicked him in his butt because I wanted to see how stiff he was. He startled, picked his head up and swung it around, and scared me half to death!” he chuckled.

I remember a scenario three years ago, after the rut. Freddy was lying flat out in a field in the sun in the late afternoon along Dewey Road, with one of his antlers resting against the ground. He was with a group of about a dozen sleeping cows and calves. I watched him for a full 10 minutes with binoculars and did not see chest movements that would indicate breathing. I thought to myself, if he dies of exhaustion after the rut, lying in a field with his cows, it’s not a bad way for him to go.

After twenty minutes, other bystanders began asking, “Is that bull out there dead?”
I was seriously wondering if I was going to have to call the Game Commission to haul him out. Then, I looked once more through a spotting scope, and the big old bull elk moved his head slightly.

It was déjà vu for me again this fall – I was not able to get a response from the lying- down bull by calling to him at close range, and I saw no signs of breathing or life whatsoever. I’ve been a nurse all my life, so I knew what to look for.

With tears brimming in my eyes, I walked to my car and was about to go to town to tell Ron Rishel before calling the Game Commission. When I slammed my car door and started the engine, the old bull picked his head up and looked at me. I swear I heard someone whisper, “Gottcha!”

I think Freddy liked to play this trick on people, and especially enjoyed hearing Rishel invoke the Lord’s name. This bull elk had a sense of humor.

I’ll treasure my memories of him forever.-Carol Mulvihill


I wish to thank Carol for sharing these stories with us and also take this opportunity to relate a similar experience that I had back in 2001.  This was the same autumn that Fred spent a lot of time in the saddle area and had the terrific battle with the Test Hill Bull, which I filmed and is incorporated in the theater presentation at Elk Country Visitor Center today.  When I arrived in the area one afternoon, I was amazed to see him lying there as though he were dead, and I filmed him with the Canon L2.  I had a 35mm camera with me, but for some reason got no still shots of this incident, so the photos that are posted today are still captures taken from the Hi-8 video tape.

Fred With Harem: Photo by W.Hill
This was the year that the first modern day Pennsylvania elk season was to be held in November and Fred was an outstanding trophy class animal, but he was also completely acclimated to humans and there is no way that shooting him could have been classified as a fair chase hunt. It seemed very likely that he would be shot, as the border with the hunt zone ran along the edge of the meadow, and he spent a lot of time there and in the woods in the distance, which were in the hunt zone.  At the time I couldn't help but wonder if this was a harbinger of things to come, and that soon he would be lying like this as someone's trophy.

Is He Dead Or Only Sleeping? Photo by W.Hill

Would He Be Lying Dead Before The Year Was Over?: Photo by W.hill
Fortunately he did return to the No Hunt Zone before season that year, and  remained there, in spite of a rumored plot to drive him from the protected area and kill him. He went on to survive over nine more years, and became the most famous bull elk in Pennsylvania and perhaps the entire world.  Unless there is a drastic change in our current elk management policies, there will never be another like him and at this point that doesn't seem likely to happen.

Be sure to read Ms. Mulvihill's March 19, 2011 column in Endeavor News,"PGC Roe not keen on expanding elk no-hunt zone", which details PGC Executive Director, Carl Roe's reaction to the concept of expanding the No Hunt Zone.  The article is available now to online or print edition subscribers, and will be available online in its' entirety in two weeks for non-subscribers.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill