DAYVILLE — What’s a nice elk like you doing in a race like this?
Dayville’s Bunny Hop 5K last Saturday picked up an unexpected participant — an elk, known as “Buddy” to locals.
Buddy ran the entire race, alongside the 54 human runners, on South Fork Road from south of town to the Dayville City Park. He stopped at least twice and headed off the route, but returned again each time to rejoin the other 5K racers.
He did have a number, but it was just an ear tag and not a sanctioned race bib. Buddy also didn’t pay any entry fees, nor did he technically finish the race, instead meandering through the crowd at the park instead of crossing the finish line.
Buddy also didn’t take part in the Easter egg hunt at the park afterward; human help guided him back up South Fork so young egg hunters could have the park to themselves.
Though Buddy is well-known by people in Dayville, this was his first trip to town, according to city recorder Ruthie Moore.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife district wildlife biologist Ryan Torland said Buddy, who is about 3 years old, was moved to Grant County from the Prineville area last month.
Torland speculates the elk was possibly raised from a calf by someone who decided it was something they didn’t want to keep. The elk had become habituated to people and started hanging out in town there.
“He thinks he’s a person,” Torland said.
But ODFW was concerned he would become more aggressive during rutting season, so they placed him in the Phillip Schneider Wildlife Area in the Murderers Creek Basin, far from people, with the hopes that he would stay there and become acclimated to other elk.
That didn’t work, however.
Buddy soon made his way down and had been hanging out at a local ranch, which is where he saw and was apparently attracted to, the activity of the 5K racers on Saturday.
Torland said Buddy was moved on Tuesday this week over to Wildlife Safari in Winston.
This was the third year for the Bunny Hop 5K but the first time an Easter elk has made an appearance at the event.