Rocky Mountain National Park to Commemorate Famous Elk with Life-Size Statue

by Amy Myers

Earlier this year, Rocky Mountain National Park lost a beloved member of its wild parts – the majestic bull elk known as Kahuna. Six months after his death, the park hopes to raise $150,000 to build a life-size statue of the famous creature.

For years, Kahuna led huge harems and helped secure the place of elks in the Rocky Mountains for generations to come. Visitors and park staff came to know the distinguished male for the impressive size of his third antler points (the ones closest to his skull), hence his other nickname, Big Thirds. No matter what folks knew him as, Kahuna was the king of the forest and seemed to always find his way into tourists’ pictures. In fact, Rocky Mountain National Park even claimed Kahuna is the most photographed elk in all of the park.

Unfortunately, the elk’s reign came to an end after he suffered an injury almost exactly a year ago. Kahuna managed to survive through the winter, but by March, he had become emaciated and eventually died.

Now, to honor the bull’s legacy and all his lifespan represented, Rocky Mountain National Park has decided to create a fundraiser that will go towards erecting a life-size bronze sculpture of Kahuna.

“Kahuna was a magnificent elk that captured the imagination of nature lovers and photographers from around the world,” John Coombs, chair of the Kahuna Memorial Project Steering Committee, shared in a news release. “We want to preserve Kahuna’s legacy by dedicating a memorial that will tell his story and inspire future generations to visit and watch for his many descendants.”

The committee has created a GoFundMe page and has set the goal amount to $150,000. So far, Rocky Mountain National Park visitors and advocates have helped raise $31,386.

Rocky Mountain National Park Remembers Kahuna’s Legacy

Along with the information about the fundraiser, the Kahuna Memorial Project Steering Committee recalled just how much of a mark the elk made on the ecosystem and visitors’ experience in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“Whether it was his unique antlers, bellowing bugle or regal manner when protecting his harem, he captured the hearts of many around the world,” the committee shared. “Over the years, thousands came to photograph and watch Kahuna during the autumn rut. His bugle was something that sent chills through your soul.”

The tribute continued, “In the cool, crisp, predawn air of Moraine Park, it emerged on his breath as frosty white clouds. A majestic sound told other bulls to keep their distance and called cows to join his harem, usually numbered 30 to 60 or more. From commanding respect during sparring to guiding younger bulls on the ways of elk life, Kahuna was indeed the King of Moraine Park.”