Anybody who claims to have seen a “unicorn” in the wild had better have a photo to prove it, a Wyoming outdoorsman said.
“Without verifiable photographic evidence, those sorts of stories are almost always the product of too much whiskey,” noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.
And there is, indeed, such evidence that a unicorn – of sorts – has been traipsing the forests of central Washington state.
A trail camera photo shows a spike bull elk with one normally developed antler, but the other is growing straight out of the middle of its forehead. The photo was posted online by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Injuries Can Cause Oddities
Injuries to an elk, sometimes nowhere near the head, can cause odd antler growth, RMEF says in its post.
“For example, an injury to an animal’s left shoulder will typically result in a rack malformed on the right side,” RMEF said.
Damage to an antler when it is still in “velvet,” or the early stages of growth, also can cause it to grow in a strange way, RMEF said. Antlers at that stage are soft and have a velvet-like covering.
Or, genetics and nutrition can come into play.
Ulrich said he’s seen some odd antler growth on Wyoming elk and deer during his time, but nothing so dramatic as the Washington unicorn bull.
“A non-typical bull that unique is exceedingly rare,” he said, adding that such a rarity could make the unicorn bull a coveted target for hunters.
“That type of non-typical antler structure would make it somewhat of a Holy Grail for hunters who seek out that sort of thing,” he said.
‘Almost Creepy’ Elk Once Stalked Wyoming Range
The oddest Wyoming elk he recalls is one that was spotted a few times many years ago in the Wyoming Mountain Range. It had a shortened spine, Ulrich said.
“That elk had a spine about half the length of a normal elk,” he said. “It was almost creepy.”
He doesn’t know whether that elk was shot by a hunter or met some other fate.
Odd tales abound in hunting camps, particularly if the drink has been flowing, he said. But again, without good evidence, few are to be believed.
“You’ll hear stories about elk running around on their hind legs and all sorts of other weird things,” Ulrich said.