Skip to Content

Japanese plant killing off Idaho wildlife

A deadly plant is killing wildlife around the Gem state.

Last month, 50 pronghorns near Boise died after eating the Japanese Yew and in December, domestic cattle died after eating the plant, Regional Conservation Educator for Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG), Gregg Losinski said.

Now, Idaho is losing elk.

For three weeks, Kirk Johnson said he has found a large herd of elk near his backyard.

“We found about 200 of them and they been kind of feeding in on the hill behind me,” Johnson said.

Little did he know, the next time he would see another elk was in his backyard; dead.

“Just over the last few days, they’ve really gotten aggressive and started to come down to our yard. Right eating on our trees and digging in our trees and trying to get just a little blade of grass,” Johnson said.

Six out elk of the eight dead elk, found in the Rimrock area, were found in his yard this week. Johnson said he was concerned.

“I would let them eat every tree in my yard down to nothing if it would save them, but we just want action,” Johnson said.

The eight elk were sent to the state veterinarian, in Eagle, Idaho. Losinski said was determined that their death was caused by a deadly, evergreen plant called the Japanese Yew.

“The Japanese Yew is an exotic shrub that’s been brought to America, primarily as an ornamental, and again, when it’s in town, that’s not a problem but when you have folks moving out of town, around the fringes, it’s something that’s very green in the winter with attractive red berries,” Losinski said.

The plant is also poisonous to humans and can kill someone immediately, Losinski warned.

“A handful is enough to kill a large moose or elk. They don’t have to sit there and graze for days. Just a few nibbles and that could be it,” Losinski said.

IDFG agents are encouraging people, especially in the outer city areas, to remove the plant from their yards.

“We will help people to remove the plant if need be and we are going to explore being able to reimburse folks that would like to replace it with other shrubbery that’s not toxic to wildlife,” Losinski said.

Johnson added that the elk damaged his trees and his water well, but he is not worried about that. He is more concerned about their livelihood and is willing to help in anyway he can.

“We obviously would like to volunteer; offer our assistance in any way we can to save these elk,” Johnson said.

Losinski suggests that if you are not sure if you have the plant in your back yard to send a photo to or you can call the office at (208) 525-7290. They will come check it out.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

News Team


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content