The Great Cranbrook Elephant Hunt


Myrtle was a female Asian elephant, Elephas maximus, born in the wild. She came to Sells-Floto from the German Hagenbeck Company in 1922. The online “elephant database” has Myrtle dying from a fall off a cliff during a stampede in Cranbrook, B.C. As with so many other things to do with the Cranbrook elephant stampede, that is not the whole story.

With Tillie captured, Myrtle and Charley Ed were the only two Sells-Floto elephants at large in the wilderness surrounding Cranbrook. It had turned to September and the nights were starting to cool. The ability of the elephants to survive in the wild had already surpassed everyone’s imagination, but the bets were that the first snow would finish both of the remaining free-ranging pachyderms.

The Ktunaxa trailers had cut elephant sign in the Jap Lake area southeast of Cranbrook. It was presumed that both Myrtle and Charlie Ed. were together at this location. Zack Terrell is quoted in the September 2nd, 1926 Cranbrook Herald as saying:

“Charlie Ed. and Myrtle are fond of each other and almost jealous of each other. They’ve got lots to eat and drink up in the wilds and apparently take little jaunts of 30 miles to the mountains and then move on toward a creek for a drink.”

The article goes on to say that Myrtle had been spotted near the Worden ranch on the Gold Creek road and looked to be sore footed, thin and defiant. Located by the Ktunaxa the general feeling was that she was bringing all her latent jungle instincts to bear on staying wild. One should remember that this is the elephant who had learned the Charleston dance craze and was a very able and docile performer.

The newspaper reports indicate that Myrtle was finally hobbled on September 8th while in a very weak condition. She was finally captured about nine miles from Cranbrook at the base of Moyie Mountain. A road was cut into the site but conditions were not good. She had lost all of her toenails, had terribly bruised knees and was suffering from two bullet wounds in her hip. She was exhausted and in great pain. Arriving from San Francisco on the 8th instant, Curly Stewart and Charles ‘Frontdoor’ Morgan took Myrtle’s care in charge. Morgan was the man hurt in the Calgary elephant stampede. They rushed food and bedding to the site. Then a late insertion in the September 9th, 1926 Cranbrook Courier stated that one of the circus men had ridden rapidly into town with the news that Myrtle died shortly after noon.

The official version was that Myrtle succumbed to pneumonia. A 1935 reminiscent piece in the Cranbrook Courier revealed that Myrtle had succumbed to a well-placed shot. This fortifies the version of events brought forward by Dave Kay in ‘Come With Me To Yesterday’. It has a nice asense of closure as the Francis Guimont mentioned is the same man who sent the famous ‘Beware of elephants’ telegram at the start of the stampede:

” When Myrtle was finally captured she also had sore feet and was the victim of a bullet wound in the hip, she had become dangerous, she had developed pneumonia and it became necessary to destroy her. Francis Guimont owned the most powerful rifle in town, a Westley Richards Express bought from a British Army officer who had used it in Africa, and he was the chosen executioner. But at the last moment events made a change necessary and so to Francis Guimont’s relief another was chosen to squeeze the trigger.”

We do know that Myrtle was skinned by local taxidermist C.B. Garrett and her head and left front leg severed. Myrtle’s skin was featured in a display in the Delaney & Sinclair window in Cranbrook, along with coyote, lynx and cougar pelts. Just another of Cranbrook’s wild animals from the northern Serengeti. The head and foot eventually found their way to the University of Alberta’s Department of Zoology in Edmonton, shipped by A.J. Ironside, C.P.R. trainmaster. Mr. Ironside stated that the relics will serve as mementoes of a chase in which the interests of a continent was focused.

A sidebar to this story is that Myrtle was embraced by the unceasing cycle of nature, and proved great bait for bear hunting. Five Cranbrook men mentioned having seen three grizzlies within a hundred and fifty yards of Myrtle’s carcass. Near the end of September Otto Gray, superintendent of plant for Kootenay Telephone Lines, killed a very large grizzly bear near Myrtle’s carcass. Soon there was nothing to be seen of the huge mound of elephant flesh. Myrtle has returned to the wild she had been born in, perhaps dancing the Charleston as she joined the eternal circus.

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Death of Myrtle
Myrtle was found on September 10th in very poor condition from exposure. She either died from pneumonia or was put…
Death of Myrtle
Caption reads - "Myrtle Dead - You Are a Good Elephant Now." Myrtle was the second to last escaped Sells-Floto…
Cranbrook Elephant Stampede
The Great Elephant Hunt - Lifting the cape of deceased elephant, 1926. One of the unfortunate elephants killed during recapture…