Aspiring photographer Misha Garcia was taking advantage of a picturesque sunset at Colorado’s Echo Canyon Reservoir last month when she came across something much more morbid. According to the Durango Herald, she discovered a herd of frozen elk some 50 feet from the shore.
“At first, my mind didn’t want to believe it; I saw them and I knew what it was and I said, ‘no, I think it’s rocks,'” Garcia told KOB 4.
Officials from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife came out to the scene and confirmed that 21 elk had died, likely as a result of wandering out on the ice and falling through. It is not uncommon for elk or other wildlife to attempt to make a crossing over frozen water. When crossing in large numbers, a single break in the ice could doom an entire herd. Parks and Wildlife employees had to work quickly to remove the elk carcasses from the lake before the water froze over again, and Garcia snapped a quick photo of the animals on shore. The image quickly went viral on Instagram.
“It’s kind of surprising none of them got out,” Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Joe Lewandowski told the Herald. “That’s what happens when you get several thousand pounds on the ice.”
Adult elk can range from 500 to 1,300 pounds each, and ice on the reservoir is still thin in many places. The carcasses were later taken to a local landfill.
You can watch an interview with Garcia below.
Image from Instagram