Big game trouble across east Idaho
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - The Idaho department of Fish and Game has begun to harvesting elk near Sugar City due to disease concerns.
Idaho Fish and Game Biologist Curtis Hendricks says this is the worst winter in his 24 years at the department.
The harsh winter has driven the elk down from the mountains in search of food. Thebig game animals have caused all sorts of damage, most notably in Caribou and Teton county.
"Typically, elk do really well through winners. It takes a lot to for an elk to die of malnutrition or to exposure or succumb to winter severity. But if there's a winner out there, we will have a chance for that to happen? It's probably in a winter like this," Hendricks said.
Fish and Game began feeding elk in December in an attempt to keep them away from cattle, highways and private property. While those efforts had worked for the most part, a group of around 30 were consistently mixing with cattle in the Sugar City area.
This has caused concern for local farmers, who worry the animals will spread diseases like Brucellosis to domestic cattle.
As a last resort, Fish and Game has begun to harvest the elk.
According to F&G, so far, "13 elk have been harvested and the meat has been properly cared for and distributed to families in need. "
"The good news is, I guess, is the strategy has seemingly worked. We have not seen the elk on the premises for like the last three days or so," Hendricks said. "It looks like they have moved on. Where to exactly? I'm not certain, but at least we don't have them climbing in and amongst livestock and we haven't seen them in the area."
But the elk problems may be far from over. While the big game animals may have moved off of private property for now, the extended winter poses more challenges for Idaho's wildlife.
"Typically around the 1st of March, we're starting to see winter break... We're definitely not seeing that," Hendricks said. "My anticipation is both for elk and mule deer in particular, we're going to see elevated mortality rates."