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Train wipes out 23 elk east of Helena; warden says 'there's not much left'

Train wipes out 23 elk east of Helena; warden says 'there's not much left'

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A herd of elk was hit by a train east of Helena Wednesday night, killing 23 animals.

The crash occurred near the intersection of U.S. Highway 12 and Spokane Creek Road, about three miles east of East Helena.

Game wardens were on the scene early Thursday to flag the animals, and Montana Rail Link responded to move the carcasses out of sight of the public, Warden Sgt. Dave Loewen said at 10 a.m. The elk are not salvageable for human consumption, he said.

“Pretty much when a 60 mile-per-hour train hits an elk, they explode on impact and there’s not much left,” he said. “It’s pretty devastating.”

While wardens initially believed the crash occurred Thursday morning, MRL said it happened at approximately 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, and involved a train based out of Helena. No one was injured in the crash and the train sustained no damage, MRL spokesman Jim Lewis said in an email.

“It is not a common occurrence for a train to collide with such a large number of animals. It is standard operating practice for MRL to notify Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s officials in these rare cases,” the email said. 

MRL crews had met with game wardens on site and were developing a plan to remove the carcasses as of 1:30 p.m., Lewis said.

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 or tom.kuglin@helenair.com

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