A research trip turned into a magical moment for a wildlife biologist who caught a glimpse of a rare 1-in-100,000 creature in the western Colorado mountains.
Montrose area wildlife biologist Evan Phillips captured images of the rare piebald cow elk while on a survey flight in the southwestern part of the state, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a post on X.
The piebald trait which causes a unique pattern of white patches on an animal's pigmented skin, hair, feathers, or scales, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Take for example, a black dog, that has white patches on its fur. That dog would then be piebald.
Images show the unique elk at the end of a herd walking through the mountains.
While the trait happens in many animals, and is common in dogs and horses, it's much rarer to see in elk and only occurs in about 1 out of every 100,000.
According to CPW, Colorado has the largest population of elks in the world with over 280,000 animal.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rare piebald cow elk spotted in Colorado: Colorado Parks and Wildlife