Residents of the Boulder neighborhood where police shot and killed a bull elk on New Year's Day gathered Thursday to remember the towering animal they called "our guardian." Neighbors lined Mountain View Road with Christmas trees, wreaths and even a picture of the elk that was shot late Tuesday night just a few blocks away at Mapleton Avenue and Ninth Street.
Jim Riemersma said the elk has been visiting the neighborhood for at least three years, and said everyone on the street always looked forward to seeing it during the winter months.
"I would walk our dogs in the evening and the morning, and I would always look forward to the possibility of seeing him," Riemersma said. "We did this little memorial to do our part to remember him."
Chelsea Flagg put a framed picture of the elk onto one of the trees, a picture that was taken when the animal was sitting in her yard. Flagg said she gave birth to both of her young daughters while at her home on Mountain View Road, and each time the elk was nearby.
"He felt like a part of the neighborhood," said Flagg, who said she was moved to tears when she heard it had been killed.
Boulder police initially denied claims by neighbors in the Mapleton area who said officers shot the elk, but Thursday revealed that an officer did, in fact, shoot the elk -- but failed to report it. The officer claimed the elk was injured and he put it down with one shot from a shotgun before giving the body to an off-duty Boulder police officer.
There were reports that, in the days before the elk was killed, some people had approached the animal and that it had become aggressive, but Riemersma said he had never seen the elk charge.
"It was never aggressive," he said. "He would protect himself, but never anything violent."
Flagg agreed, saying she thought the shooting was suspicious.
"It seems something isn't adding up," she said. "Whether (the officer) was doing this on his own, who knows."
Even as they wait for more answers, the residents who always kept an eye out for the elk said the neighborhood will be different without it.
"We always felt like he was our guardian, our protector," Kappy Strahan said. "He was so majestic. He really stopped you in your tracks when he was around." ___