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FARMINGTON — George Schmitt, a ConocoPhillips employee, always scans an irrigation ditch near Bloomfield that runs along the road he takes to work.

Schmitt said he enjoys the view of the canal as he crosses the bridge that spans the waterway.

But when he made the drive on Friday something in the water caught his eye.

A bull elk was struggling to stay afloat as it tried to find a place to climb out of the canal.

Schmitt called the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and then called his friend, Brad Parker, who drove to the canal in his truck to help Schmitt save the elk.

"I got my tow rope out and I made a lariat out of it," Schmitt said.

He could tell the elk was tired and it kept swimming to the location where the canal water slows beneath the hillside.

"He was almost ready to give up," Schmitt said.

He had tried lassoing the elk multiple times and Parker had also attempted to lasso the elk.

Schmitt finally managed to loop the rope around the elk's chin and antler.

With the tow rope around the elk, he started pulling the elk upstream to get it to a place where he could possibly drag it out.

Parker got his truck and, after Schmitt had pulled it to the ledge of the canal, they tied the rope to the truck and used the vehicle to pull the animal out of the canal.

At one point, the elk went limp.

"He went dead weight," Schmitt said. "I thought we'd lost him."

But, when the bull elk was safely on the shore, Schmitt saw it open its eyes and he paused to pet the animal.

Shortly afterward, a game warden arrived.

Schmitt left to return to work, but he learned from his friend who stayed at the location that the elk had recovered and walked away.

"It was an experience," Schmitt said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.

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