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Reactions to elephant on the loose in Butte

elephant on the loose in Butte
Posted at 12:28 PM, Apr 17, 2024

GREAT FALLS — An elephant was briefly on the loose in Butte on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, after it escaped from a traveling circus that’s in town.

Butte Civic Center Manager Bill Melvin confirmed the elephant temporarily got loose from the traveling Jordan World Circus that’s in town.

Melvin said handlers were washing the female elephant - named Viola - outside the Civic Center when a passing vehicle backfired and spooked the animal.

The elephant walked across Harrison Avenue, stopping traffic and bewildering people, while a handler chased after it.

One resident of Elm Street Apartments was walking to the Town Pump when he encountered Viola, who had stopped in the grass of the apartment complex.

“I was walking to the gas station to pick up a drink and there it was, just walking down the street. It caught me off guard, it was—how often do you see an elephant walking down the street?” said Branden Pierson.

elephant in butte

He explained, “It was just standing there by the building just relaxing, basically, nothing too much, not excited or anything, but as soon as the truck came here to pick him up, he kind of just walked to the truck, so I figured he was just happy to get back to wherever he wants to go.”

The elephant was soon corralled back at the Civic Center without injury, according to Melvin.

Here is video shared by Brittany McGinnis:

VIDEO: elephant on the loose in Butte

There were no injuries or property damage reported.

The brief spectacle generated plenty of social media commentary - along with criticism from people who believe that elephants should not be used in circuses.

Here's a sample of comments from the KRTV Facebook page:

Margaret Peggy Garner-Siebenaller: “He doesn't want to be a part of the circus anymore, set him free.”

Shalane Smith: “Idk how people thing this is funny. Animal is trying to escape and is likely highly stressed. Poor thing.”

Mike Shirley: “This is the most Butte, MT thing I have ever seen”

Michele Lynn: “FREE THE ELEPHANTS from Circus servitude!!!”

Melinda Tangen: “Poor creature must have been terrified.”

Alex Berns: “It would be great to see a go fund me get started up to buy him from the circus and get him somewhere better.”

Gareth Redgrave: “New event for Butte. They can start an annual running of the elephants, maybe during St Patricks Day.”

Doug Salter: “How many people can say I was late for work because there was elephant blocking the street?”

Laura Hagen, director of captive wildlife at the Humane Society of the United States, said in a news release:

Viola the elephant who escaped from Jordan World Circus, belongs to the Oklahoma-based Carson & Barnes Circus, which owns more than 20 elephants. This is the third time she has escaped the cruel and abusive captivity of the circus, endangering herself and members of the public. Her escapes have taken place in multiple states.

Hagen continued: “Viola, along with Carson & Barnes’ other elephants– and all elephants used in the entertainment industry - should be immediately retired to an accredited sanctuary and the US Department of Agriculture must act swiftly to enforce federal law. The cruelty and danger inherent in forcing elephants and other wild animals to spend their lives in circuses, subjected to violent training and prolonged confinement, must end.”