All sorts of animals need a community—that is, a pack or a herd of fellow creatures to hunt with, travel with, and make life a little less lonely. Conversely, losing that community usually means serious trouble for these animals, as they could die without protection or companionship.
In Kittitas County, Washington, locals often spoke about a lone elk that was known to wander onto nearby farms. The elk would frequently approach their cows and goats, and it soon became obvious that she had no family to speak of. But her search for companionship eventually took her to a surprising place…
It’s important for most wild animals to feel as if they’re a part of a community. That’s why they tend to stick close to their herds. Unfortunately, for many lost and orphaned animals, like one elk in Kittitas County, Washington, life can be a little more lonely.
The elk had reportedly been wandering around many of the nearby farms in search of food and some companions. According to locals, she’d long ago been abandoned by her family and left to fend for herself in the wild.
Though her origin story was heartbreaking, it was about to take a surprising turn. One recent day, she found herself in the same area as firefighters responding to a forest blaze. What no one could have expected was what the lonely elk would do next…
The fire had sent the majority of local wildlife running for safety. “We had a fire on the hillside. The firefighters saved three homes that day,” Richelle Risdon, a spokesperson for the Kittitas County Fire Department explained.
Amazingly, once the blaze had simmered, the lonely elk decided it was time to make some friends. Evidently no introvert, she walked right up to the firefighters and said “hello!” Just look at the way she waltzed right up behind them!
“They said the elk just wandered into their command post with about 10 people there,” Richelle recalled. “She wandered in and made herself at home. She doesn’t leave you alone either. She’s pretty insistent that she wants to be part of the group.”
As it turned out, the elk—whom the firefighters learned was named Buttons—was a fixture of the local community. Over the past few months, many residents claimed to have seen her hanging around their ranches and farms.
The firefighters were then told how Buttons had been separated from her herd at a young age following a similar wildfire. Unfortunately, the poor elk was never reunited with her family, and she’d been wandering the area since.
“What I’ve been told from the neighbors, she’s been coming around since she was little, since the big Taylor Bridge Fire that made news,” Richelle further explained, referencing the destructive 2012 wildfire.
In the time since, several locals witnessed her hanging around with herds of cows and goats on a nearby hillside, likely to make up for her lack of an immediate family. There was one animal she seemingly had no interest in, however…
The residents noted how Buttons didn’t seem to want to interact with her own kind, perhaps because she felt slighted by them! “She wants nothing to do with elk moving through the area, like she doesn’t see herself as an elk,” Richelle added.
“She showed up here when she was little and adopted the goats and horses as her family, and she just stayed around,” Kittitas County resident Chane Roghair explained to reporters following the animal’s encounter with the firefighters.
After that, Buttons became part of the Kittitas County community—and something of a local celebrity. Obviously, given how these firefighters reacted to her, it looked as if she’d finally found a new group of friends!
Most of the time, elk try to keep a safe distance from humans—but Buttons had no hesitations about saying “hi” up close. She even showed her affection in the form of a nuzzle and a sloppy kiss! Clearly, she was a lover—not a fighter.
While many of the county’s local residents were accustomed to encounters with Buttons, the firefighters were still taken aback by how open she was to walking up to them. Wildlife can often be unpredictable, but that wasn’t an issue in her case!
And even though several elk herds came through the area, Buttons seemed to prefer hanging out with her new friends—both animal and human. Perhaps it was because she learned how to talk people into giving her a chin scratch?
The firefighters reported that, during her visit to their post, this sweet elk made sure to join them on their rounds and give kisses to every officer there. It was as if she was a junior firefighter for the day, and they were happy to have her on their team!
What a sweet little animal! Hopefully she felt as much at home with the firefighters of Kittitas County as they did with her. It just goes to show you that friends can come in all sorts of shapes—and species!
How sweet is this animal? With so much love to go around, it’s safe to say that Buttons the elk will never be lonely again.
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