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The Observer Paper 12/22/14

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Where's Dennis?

Dennis had come to the Anthony Creek feeding site of the Elkhorn Wildlife Area since at least 2000. The Rocky Mountain bull elk has not been seen this winter. - Submitted photos
Dennis had come to the Anthony Creek feeding site of the Elkhorn Wildlife Area since at least 2000. The Rocky Mountain bull elk has not been seen this winter. - Submitted photos
The question is asked with increasing frequency by people visiting the Elkhorn Wildlife Viewing Area.

Where is Dennis?

Dennis is a six-point bull elk that has visited the Elkhorn Wildlife Viewing Area's Anthony Creek feeding site regularly for at least eight years.

Dennis has yet to appear at the Elkhorn Wildlife Viewing Area this winter. Alice Trindle and Susan Triplett, who lead horse-drawn wagon tours of the elk feeding site, are concerned. They fear Dennis may have died.

"We will be holding out hope for another week,'' Trindle said.

If Dennis does not appear by then, Trindle believes it would be safe to assume he will not be coming back. Trindle, though, is hoping for the best.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed.''

There is reason for hope. Trindle noted that earlier this week another six-point bull joined the 220 elk that regularly feed at the Anthony Creek site.

Trindle and Triplett are the owners of T&T Wildlife Tours, which takes visitors to the Elkhorn Wildlife Viewing elk feeding site each Saturday and Sunday through February. The two have been taking visitors on tours since 1990 at Anthony Creek and have never seen an elk as well liked as Dennis.

"He's definitely the most popular elk we've had. He's the one people come back year after year to see,'' Trindle said.

Dennis is a hit with visitors not only because of the size of his antlers but also for his charisma. Trindle noted that most other six-point bulls who feed at the site are shy around people.

"They are reclusive. They stay in the back.''

Not Dennis.

He often comes to the head of the herd and seemingly poses for photographers.

"He is a camera hog,'' Trindle said.

Images of Dennis have appeared in Sunset Magazine, many newspapers and on OPB-TV's popular show "Oregon Field Guide."

"He may be the most photographed Rocky Mountain elk in the world,'' Trindle said.

The elk's distinctive features include eye guards that stick directly out and are parallel to the ground and an eye with a white spot. Dennis lost his sight in the eye several years ago, Trindle said.

She can tell by the way Dennis has responded when alfalfa hay is being distributed at the feeding site.

Dennis may have been taken by a hunter because his rack would represent quite a trophy. He was at least 11, old for a bull elk in the wild that is hunted each fall.

The last evidence of Dennis' whereabouts was found in late May. While horseback riding, Triplett discovered one of his shed antlers near the Anthony Creek feeding site. Elk shed their antlers in March. Trindle said that she and Triplett show the antler each weekend to their wagon riders.

"If he died, he left us quite a present to remember him by.''

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