Lonely elk’s appearance a concern for Whidbey resident

Already driving with extra caution after hitting a deer in July, Rita Lemke was traveling slowly to work last week when she spotted a large rack of antlers poking out from behind a bush along the side of the road.

Then out it came into full view — a majestic elk with a giant rack.

The elk stared at Lemke, seemingly unalarmed, then it started walking alongside her car as she drove slowly, Lemke glancing at the animal out her passenger-side window.

Eventually, the elk crossed the street and trotted away into a field as Lemke took a photograph.

“I told my friends, ‘He took me for a walk,’” Lemke said.

The Aug. 5 sighting of the elk near Strawberry Point on North Whidbey Island was confirmation that it has survived for nearly two years on the island.

Initially spotted in September 2012 near the same area, the elk is believed to be the only one living on Whidbey Island. Some speculate that it split from its herd on the mainland and swam across Skagit Bay.

Lemke, who lives in the Strawberry Point area, said she’s seen the elk about five times and has heard him bugling.

Lemke said she and others in the neighborhood are protective of him, yet she’s a little concerned by what she saw this last sighting during her early morning drive.

“I noticed he was much more slender,” she said. “The last time I saw him before, he was in his full bulk.

“Now he looks so skinny, but the rack was huge.”

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