WATCH: Montana Elk Guided to Safety After Being Trapped Between Property Fence and Raging Wildfire

by Matthew Memrick

Between a property fence and a raging wildfire, a firefighter caught a group of Montana Elk he guided to safety recently.

Firefighter Christopher Sharpe caught a trio of elk as they ran for safety along a fence line last week in Montana.

In the first video, the elk ran along the fence in an eerie sight, looking desperate to avoid the fire just slightly beyond the 4-foot wall. 

The second video clip’s ending could have been from a Hollywood film as the trio ran through the flames, into the darkness, and onto safety.

“The elk did make it out safe,” Sharpe wrote on Facebook. “Cutting the fence would have scared the elk and deer into the fire more. We had people walking along the fence to help push them into the safe place.”  

The elk looked to escape the PF Fire in Big Horn County. That fire has destroyed nearly 67,000 acres of land as of August 1.

MeatEater dove further into the video, saying the fence once kept domestic elk. The ranch raised elk for the antlers and meat at one point, but now cattle was the ranch’s main business. Also, the Website said the fences varied between high and low to help animals travel. 

“That was definitely a fire for the books,” Sharpe told MeatEater. “But near the end, the elk were the diamond in the rough, if you will.”

Elk Escape Raging Montana Wildfire

NBC Montana reported that the fire burned near Hardin, Montana, and primarily on the Crow Reservation. The fire was only 20 percent contained. Officials said the fire started Tuesday, July 27, along the Big Horn River.

The Billings Gazette reported that Montana had not seen fires reaching more than 60,000 acres since 2017. That year marked the worst wildfire season on record in terms of land burned. There were no reported fatalities, but the flames burned 20 utility poles and knocked out power in the region. The wildfire also displaced elk and other animals.

According to the Northern Rockies Coordinator Center, officials reported the fire fighting effort reached an estimated $1 million in costs Friday. Governor Greg Gianforte recently said the state had spent $13 million in response to wildfires since July 1.

Officials suspect this fire may have kindled from a coal seam. A bed of coal in 2020 burned 52,000 acres in the area, according to the Billings Gazette.

Remi Hunter wrote on that dense standing burns could be an excellent habitat to find the elk in terms of hunting. With their cover mostly blown, the elk may find ways to hide in it. 

Hunter also pointed out that fires in heavily timbered forests can lead to an uptick in the elk population by over 70 percent.