The most beloved and photographed bull elk in Rocky Mountain National Park since the death of the immortal Samson, who was poached by a bow hunter over 25 years ago.

Known by names such as Big Kahuna, Bruno and Incredibull, the elk which is believed to have lived for around 10 years was found dead in the park on Sunday by wildlife photographers from Good Bull Outdoors and ACS Nature Photography.

“The king has fallen! The most photographed bull in the country has laid to rest,” Andrew Sanders, Estes Park resident and owner of ACS Nature Photography, posted on his Instagram account.

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A large bull elk that some have named the Big Kahuna, Bruno and Incredibull was found dead Sunday in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Elk were popular with visitors and wildlife photographers.  The cause of death of the approximately 10-year-old animal is unknown, but natural causes or an attack by mountain lions are suspected.

Good Bull Outdoors posted on its Facebook page on Sunday: “We are saddened to announce the passing of perhaps the most iconic elk in history. …Being the first to get your hands on its beautiful antler (one had already been lost) was humble and the three of us – myself, Alli and Andrew – were each blessed to be the last to see him alive and the first to see him dead.

The post said photographers last saw the bull weighing around 1,000 pounds on March 7, but then a storm set in and photographers lost track of the animal until Sunday. The post said the elk could have been “shot by a mountain lion with tracks surrounding the area (where) it was found”.

Fort Collins resident Michael Madrid, owner of Michael Madrid Photography and senior photo editor for USA TODAY, said he never had a name for the elk, but every time he photographed it, he had the same reaction.

“It was always, ‘Holy cow, look how massive this guy is’,” Madrid said on Wednesday.

Madrid said he would typically find and photograph the moose early in the morning in Moraine Park. He said the last time he photographed the animal was in 2019.

“His bugle was just thunderous, unlike anything you’ve heard,” Madrid said. “It stirred your soul to hear this intense and moving sound breaking the silence.”

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Park did not post any social media posts on its social platforms about the death and did not respond Wednesday morning via email to a request for an interview.

Park spokesman Kyle Patterson told CBS4 the cause of death is unknown and the animal “could have died of natural causes or been preyed upon by a mountain lion.” to his death.

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Like Big Kahuna, Samson was a well-known and revered large elk who was tolerant of people.

He was unlawfully killed with a crossbow by a Lakewood resident on the grounds of the YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park in November 1995. His death sparked national outrage against the poacher, who was sentenced to prison, to a fine and probation.

Two years after Samson’s death, he was memorialized with a bronze sculpture that can still be seen at the intersection of US Highway 36 and Colorado Highway 7.

Journalist Miles Blumhardt seeks stories that impact your life. Whether it’s news, outdoors, sports – you name it, it wants to report it. Do you have a story idea? Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @MilesBlumhardt. Support his work and that of other Colorado journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.