HECTOR, Minn. - Collisions with deer aren't unusual on rural highways in southern Minnesota, but a collision with an elk had people scratching their heads Friday.
That's what happened on Minnesota Highway 4 a couple miles north of Hector when a bull elk crossed the road into the path of an oncoming car.
The unidentified female driver, who was reportedly on her way to work just before 8 a.m., was not injured but her Ford Mustang sustained significant damage.
Trent Squibb of Hector, who drove up on the scene shortly after the collision and obtained a possession permit to bring the elk home for butchering, estimated the animal's size at 650 to 700 pounds.
"That's big. It was pretty impressive," he said.
Although the elk survived the impact, it was severely injured and had to be dispatched by authorities, he said.
Hector is about 80 miles southwest of Minneapolis.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, young bull elk are known to travel hundreds of miles. This is also elk breeding season, so the animals are on the move and potentially more visible, said Dan Ruiter, information officer with the DNR's southern region.
It's rare to see one this far south, however, and Renville County has no resident elk herds, he said.
The elk hit on the road north of Hector Friday had no signs of ever being tagged, Ruiter said.
"While that doesn't rule out the possibility of it being an escaped farm animal, it appears to be wild," he said.
At one time, elk ranged across much of Minnesota but the population of wild elk is now concentrated in the far northwestern corner of the state. The most recent survey, conducted in February and March, recorded three herds with a total of 97 elk.
The elk killed near Hector could be from that population or possibly from a neighboring state, Ruiter said.
He added that sampling will be done to test the animal for disease at the DNR wildlife health program at Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area.
Squibb, who is sharing the meat with two other individuals, said word of the car vs. elk encounter spread rapidly Friday on social media, accompanied with photos.
"I think there's a lot of buzz in town," he said. "It's something different."
Although the elk's demise was unfortunate, "at least it doesn't go to waste," he said.