Craig While elk hunting is a way of life in Moffat County, there is one lucky buck that never will have to worry about being in the crosshairs.
Three-year-old Junior the Elk, also known as JR, has been living the life O’Riley in his hillside pasture at The Wyman Living History Museum for 8 months now, making a name for himself in the shadow of beloved predecessor Clyde.
“He’s a lot more personable than Clyde was,” said museum owner Lou Wyman. “We didn’t realize how cantankerous the old bull was until we got Junior. He was a little wild when we first got him, but he’s gentled down a good bit.”
Wyman wasn’t sure if he would get another elk-in-residence for the museum after Clyde died of old age last fall.
Lou Wyman "wasn’t sure if he wanted another elk on the place, and everybody loved Clyde so much,” said museum employee Benna Haughey. “But there was so much outcry from people. They just thought we should have one.”
Junior came to the Wyman Museum from Plateau Valley Elk Ranch, where Wyman had sold elk 30 years before. Andy Azcarraga sent pictures of two young bull elk from the herd for Wyman to choose from, and JR came out the winner.
“Oh, we took one look and pretty much decided,” Haughey said. “We had to, really. He had such a pretty face!”
Junior’s antlers set him apart as well; although his body weight, at 450 pounds, is average for his age, Junior was sporting six-point antlers when he arrived at his new home. Judging by that, museum employees expect Junior to grow into a very big boy.
“He really is a sweetheart though,” Haughey said as she tried to tempt JR from his napping spot with apple slices, his favorite treat. “He just loves attention and we’ll bring five or six people at a time sometimes to see him.”
Human company aside, Junior often is seen in the company of Shadow, a black cat that came to live at the museum after her previous owner abandoned her. According to Haughey, the unlikely duo even sleep curled up next to each other in Junior’s barn from time to time.
Luckily Shadow won’t have any reason to get jealous, since Wyman has no plans to get Junior a girlfriend any time soon.
Visitors to the museum who want to make sure Junior doesn’t get lonely are invited to bring an apple for him, but crackers and Oreos also suit him just fine.