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Vehicles slam into elk herd on Evergreen Parkway

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By Stephanie DeCamp

Three cars slammed into a herd of elk on Evergreen Parkway during rush hour Tuesday evening, killing at least two of the animals but resulting in no injuries to occupants of the vehicles.

The incident occurred near Evergreen Parkway and Brookline Road, where each car hit animals individually but did not collide with other vehicles, said Jeffco sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley.

The three collisions occurred sequentially: A 2013 Volkswagen hit the herd at 5:40 p.m., and two other cars — a 2007 Mercury and 1999 Jeep — collided with animals at 5:45 p.m., said Nate Reid with the Colorado State Patrol, which investigated the accident.

Nanci Bliss-Kelley, who alerted the Courier to the accident, said the carnage was so extreme that she couldn't "get the images out of my head."

Bliss-Kelley saw at least one elk dead and two more down, she said.

Dennis Gitt also drove past the accident shortly after it happened, and reported that he saw at least two full-grown female elk that had been killed.

"I was heading south on Highway 74 toward Evergreen," he said, "just north of where the Elk Meadow trailhead is, where you turn at the light. … The damage (to the cars) was significant — smashed windshields and completely crushed front ends."

Kelley said several elk were put down, and that an officer at the scene described it as "car-mageddon."

"It's not like when a deer crosses — they sprint," Gitt said. "An elk lumbers; they're actually kind of majestic in the way they cross the road. But it's a combination of their migration path being there, the darkness, high traffic, the time of year it is and the cars' speed. … At those speeds, you don't have time to react. … These accidents are frequent enough that I say something needs to be done."

The speed limit on that stretch is 55 mph, but Gitt said he sees motorists driving faster. He suggested that streetlights in the area would help.

"If you can see (the animals), you can avoid them," he said. "When they're in the beam of your headlights, it's already too late."