Orphaned elk takes Wash. firefighters by surprise with affectionate nuzzles
Eastern Washington firefighters often spend many long, hot days battling summertime blazes, and are occasionally visited by people offering support for their efforts. But on July 2, 2016, an unusual Kittitas County resident arrived to offer her own brand of moral support.
"She walked into the command post area and began nudging everyone," says the Kittitas County Fire District #7 Facebook page. "She is making her rounds giving kisses to each firefighter and officer here."
"She" is Buttons, a young female elk that is well-known in the area. Orphaned in a summer wildfire three years ago, she has wandered a local hillside ever since. She's adopted some local horses, cows and goats as her new herd, even ignoring other elk when they pass through.
When she isn't visiting firefighters, she visits a nearby chimpanzee sanctuary. "The chimps are like her pets. She sits and watches them," said J. B. Mulcahy, co-director of the sanctuary, in a September 2015 story about Buttons in the Daily Record.
"She's actually really friendly," said local resident Chane Roghair in the same news story. "I think everybody in the county knows her."
A spokesperson for the Kittitas County Fire District said that everyone hopes the media attention will help hunters be aware of the self-tamed animal, and will steer clear of her.
Buttons says, "Pucker up, sir... you deserve a kiss!"
Firefighter Paul Blume accepts a thank you from a grateful resident.
Firefighter Katie Schmitt took a selfie with Buttons. "She is very loved and stuck by me most of the time I was on the fire. Here she was trying to eat my helmet," Schmitt said on the Fire District's Facebook page.
Firefighter Jonas Smith appreciates the show of love and returns it with some scratches under the chin.
Firefighter Ray Risdon accepts Buttons' nudges of gratitude. It's hard to tell which appreciates the other's company more!