A bizarre scene in an Oregon Coastal Cemetery after six poisoned elk collapsed and died from eating a toxic shrub.
On December 13, 2013, state Fish and Wildlife officer Phil Elkins discovered the dead elk scattered throughout Ocean View Cemetery in Astoria, Oregon.
“There were no visible bullet holes, arrow holes,” said Elkins in a report by the Astorian. “They just died.”
The poisoned elk were part of a larger herd of approximately 40-50 that occasionally wander through the cemetery.
State Fish and Wildlife workers took the dead elk to the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab near Corvallis, Oregon where scientists conducted a necropsy to determine the cause of death.
The test results indicated that English yew – a poisonous non-native conifer shrub – had caused the poisoned elk to die. Ocean View Cemetery uses English yew as a decorative shrub for the grounds.
The shrub is not naturalized in the region, so the passing elk likely ate it not knowing what it was.
State wildlife officials said that the poisoned elk found in the Ocean View Cemetery is an unusual occurrence.
“Fish and Game said they’ve never seen anything like it,” said Elkins.
Read about elk poisoned by toxic algae in New Mexico.
Most of the English yew shrub is toxic, except for the bright red berries that surround the seed. The leaves, which the deer likely ate, are the most toxic part of the plant.
English yew’s poison can cause shock, trembling, shivers, weak pulse, collapse and death. Occasionally, the poison will show no symptoms, leading to death hours after being eaten.