Canmore mourns unusual friendly elk who befriended dogs and magpies

Some residents of Canmore, Alta., are mourning the death of an unusual elk that went by the name of Marvin. He was known to frequent backyards and hang out with pets.

The antlered animal, dubbed Marvin, frequented backyards

The visiting elk was friendly with many animals, including magpies. (Beate West)

Angus the Siberian husky is missing his friend, an elderly elk named Marvin.

The unusual friendship was one of several the elk developed over the past few years in Canmore, Alta.

Human and dog residents of the mountain town embraced the antlered animal that frequented backyards and the local horse stables. Marvin, as he was called, was known to snuggle with an old mare, allow magpies to perch on his head, and lie in the sun with the husky. 

Marvin died earlier this month, and his absence has been noted.

"I've been naturally quite amazed at the number of people that have texted and called me to say how sorry they are to hear that Marvin has died," said Derek West, owner of Angus.

"There's an awful lot of people in this neighborhood who are going to miss him."

Marvin the elk and Angus the husky were great friends until the elk died. (Beate West)

There are even calls to erect a statue in the town to mark the elk's legacy, said Lisa Young, of the Bow Valley Riding Association.

Marvin captured residents' hearts in 2013, when he got a string of Christmas lights and candy canes stuck in his antlers.

"He was one of the elk we didn't have to chase away because he was nice with the horses," Young told the Calgary Eyeopener. "He didn't try and attack them. He'd just hang out with them."

An elk got tangled up in Christmas lights and decorations in Banff in 2013. Canmore residents believe this was Marvin the elk, who recently died. (Courtesy of Dan Rafla/Parks Canada)

His temperament matched that of Angus, the 36-kilogram husky. That's why West thinks the two got along so well with each other, and their mutual bird and squirrel friends.

"They took to just kind of lying there, sunning together. And a couple of times we caught them, it looked like they were playing tag," West said. "Marvin was just like another big dog in the yard."

Marvin the elk often came right into people's backyards, not being scared of humans. (Beate West)

Angus and Marvin became such good friends, the elk returned to the yard when he became ill. West's wife, Beate West, said they didn't realize at the time the elk was ill, so didn't call for a veterinarian.

Although the elk usually hung around for a day at a time, on this visit he stayed a full four days.

The whole time, Angus wouldn't leave his side.

"Angus just could not be coaxed away from him," Derek West said. "He just stayed there lying watching him."

West found the two in the morning, after Marvin had died.

"I guess he just stayed there until the end."

Angus and Marvin slept in the sun together often. (Beate West)

So although Marvin has gone, he hasn't been forgotten. Young said community members are grateful for having gotten to know the gentle giant.

"[He] was that little bit of wildness that you could see but you didn't feel like you had to chase them away or they shouldn't be here," she said.

"You felt like he was part of the community."

With files from Danielle Nerman and the Calgary Eyeopener.