GRAYLING, Mich. (AP) — A dozen elk fell through ice in northern Michigan and died, despite a desperate rescue effort by hunting guides, authorities said.

“This is a very tragic and unfortunate event,” said Dan Eichinger, director of the Department of Natural Resources.

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The elk, a group of bulls, females, and calves, died Tuesday at Crapo Lake, a private lake in Otsego County, about 20 miles northeast of Grayling.

A hunting party saw the elk heading down a slope and onto the ice. Two hunting guides in a rowboat tried to cut a path through the ice with a chainsaw but didn’t make much progress, the DNR said.

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“For the safety of the guides, conservation officers ordered them off the ice to prevent another tragedy,” said Sgt. Mark Depew of the DNR. “Given the weight of the animals and the relatively thin ice, there were no safe options available for saving or recovering the elk alive.”

The ice was only 2 inches thick where the elk fell through. Elk can weigh 350 to 900 pounds.

Authorities recovered 11 carcasses Wednesday. The meat will be donated to local charities.

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