Elk’s role in death uncertain
Victim died of heart failure, autopsy shows
A bull elk’s exact role in the death of a ranch worker Thursday may never be known.
An autopsy performed Saturday in Denver concluded that the victim, John Wayman Renner, 56, was not fatally gored by the elk but died of heart failure, Moffat County Coroner Owen Grant said.
However, the 9-year-old elk, which had been raised in captivity, clearly had contact with Renner, Grant said Saturday after learning of the autopsy results.
Grant said Renner’s body had abrasions on it and blood was found on the ground inside the elk’s pen at the Wyman Living History Ranch and Museum east of Craig where Renner had worked for a short time.
But the autopsy, performed by a pathologist in Denver on Saturday, concluded that none of Renner’s external wounds was fatal, Grant said.
Whether Renner’s heart stopped because of something the elk did probably will never be known, Grant said.
After learning about the autopsy report, the elk’s owner, Lou Wyman, said he would not destroy the animal, which is named Clyde.
Wyman told the Daily Press on Friday that he hadn’t decided what he would do with the elk.
But Sunday, after he learned that the elk hadn’t gored Renner and after an outpouring of public comment urging him to let the elk live, Wyman said he plans to keep Clyde.
“We didn’t really want to get rid of him,” Wyman said.
He said the level of support for the elk surprised him.
“There was quite a response around town,” Wyman said.
Support for Clyde also showed in an unscientific poll on the Daily Press Web site. In that poll, 94 percent of the voters said they wanted Clyde to live. More than 300 votes were cast.
Authorities found Renner’s body Thursday, slumped over, face down in a feeding trough inside the elk’s pen at the Wyman ranch east of Craig.
Original reports from emergency crews indicated Renner had been gored by the elk.
Renner was feeding the elk hay at the time of his death. Wyman said Renner had been told to never enter the pen to feed the animal.
The final autopsy reports will tell more about what caused Renner’s heart failure and what kind of physical condition he was in, Grant said.
Renner was two weeks shy of his 57th birthday when he died.
Renner’s friend and roommate, Dave Cheeks, said Renner was a Vietnam veteran and the father of twin boys.
Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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