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Pair of elk find home at city zoo

These elk have become the newest residents of the Spring River Park and Zoo, arriving Tuesday morning. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The city zoo received a male and female elk Tuesday morning after they were released by a game reserve in the area and transferred by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department.

Staff of the Spring River Park and Zoo have been caring for the animals at their former home while setting up a special fenced off area in the south portion of the zoo that will hold the elk for about a year until their permanent residence at the city attraction is ready.

“We’ve wanted elk for a long time,” said Marge Woods, zoo superintendent. “We had some elk about 15 years ago, but it didn’t work out because we didn’t have a shelter for them. Now we do.” She pointed to a lean-to that has been erected to give the six-year-old bull and the five-year-old cow some shade and protection from the weather.

Wood said that the elk won’t be available for public viewing until they are placed in a new exhibit area near the deer.

“But the mountain lion exhibit comes first,” she said. The zoo intends to construct a larger enclosure for the mountain lions featuring more natural type of vegetation and surroundings.

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Cpl. Tyson Sanders of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department contacted the zoo about taking the animals.

He has been working for some time with a game reserve that he said is not renewing its permit and no longer can have large animals in captivity. The elk were the only animals remaining, he said, and they either had to be relocated or euthanized.

“I think it is a great opportunity for people to see some elk that are native to New Mexico,” he said, “and a couple of beautiful specimen.”