Groups working to memorialize iconic Rocky Mountain elk Kahuna in Estes Park

The Kahuna Memorial Project Steering Committee announced that it will partner with the Art Center of Estes Park in its effort to raise $150,000 to commission and build a memorial to the well-known bull elk Kahuna, who died in March 2022 after a long life as one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most notable elk.

“Kahuna was a magnificent elk that captured the imagination of nature lovers and photographers from around the world,” John Coombs, chair of the Kahuna Memorial Project Steering Committee said. “We want to preserve Kahuna’s legacy by dedicating a memorial that will tell his story and inspire future generations to visit and watch for his many descendants.

“We are proud of our partnership with the Kahuna Memorial Project,” said Alice League, Art Center of Estes Park board member. “When admirers see the public art memorial, we want them to know he was a legendary elk while also promoting wildlife education and preservation.

The project team anticipates having the memorial created and installed in time for the 2023 tourist peak season. Tax-deductible contributions to the Kahuna Memorial Project can be made through the organization’s GoFundMe or sent to the Kahuna Memorial Project.

Supporters are encouraged to follow the Kahuna the Elk of Rocky Mountain National Park Facebook and Instagram pages for updates on the memorial project experiences.

Kahuna, who spent most of his time in Moraine Park during the rut, was the most photographed elk in Rocky Mountain National Park history. It is believed Kahuna – also known by the nicknames Bruno, Incredibull and Big Thirds – was one of the largest elk in North America, with an estimated weight of one thousand pounds and one of the largest antler rankings recorded.

According to award-winning wildlife photographer Dawn Wilson, Kahuna’s massive antler rack had seven points on each side during his prime years. “What was so impressive was the length, mass and spread of his antlers. In particular, he had an exceptionally long third tine on each side,” said Wilson.

“Kahuna sported a huge rack with long, wide main beams but his third points made him most recognizable each year,” said Fred McClanahan, Jr., a photographer from Fort Collins who followed the iconic elk for more than five years.

“His bugle was sharp and crisp which along with his huge antlers and massive body attracted many cows to his harem during the rut while other bulls kept their distance,” said McClanahan who is credited with naming Kahuna.

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