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Idaho Fish and Game

F&G initiates feeding operation in Hamer to reduce elk damage

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Harsh winter conditions persist throughout the Upper Snake Region, bringing elk into the lower elevations and areas near farming and cattle operations. Since early December residents in the rural community of Hamer have seen around 2,500 elk move into the area, causing a hazard to motorists along Interstate 15, damaging haystacks and raising disease concerns as elk mix with cattle feeding operations. 

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Group of Hamer elk near haystack

 

Since the arrival of these elk, Fish and Game staff, landowners and a dedicated crew of volunteers have spent a significant amount of time protecting stackyards and hazing elk to prevent damage and keep them out of cattle operations. “Landowners assisted by volunteers and staff have been dealing with these issues both day and night for over a month,” says Regional Supervisor Matt Pieron. “The landowners have been great to work with and I can’t thank them enough for their dedication and hard work as these elk continue to be a persistent problem for them.”

Volunteer Harold Rose using non-lethal cracker shells to haze elk
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Volunteer Harold Rose using non-lethal cracker shells to haze elk

 

On Jan. 3, Fish and Game met with local agricultural producers from Hamer and the surrounding areas to discuss the damages caused by the large influx of elk. During the well-attended meeting, Fish and Game heard concerns and the frustrations of landowners, who despite previous efforts, were still receiving significant damages from the increased elk activity.  A small group of representative landowners were identified to continue working with staff from Fish and Game in a collaborative effort to identify solutions and minimize elk damage. 

Elk damaged haystack
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Elk damaged haystack

 

While feeding is always a last option, after several meetings with the small landowner group and in consultation with the Winter Feeding Advisory Committee, it was decided that a feeding operation was necessary to lure these elk away from the freeway and limit their interactions with cattle. Working with landowners, Fish and Game has initiated a feeding operation on a piece of private ground and is sourcing hay from local producers to feed elk in the interest of public safety and disease concerns. 

“We have placed a bread crumb like trail of hay to lure the elk in and they are already finding it,” explains wildlife biologist Josh Rydalch. “Last Friday we used snowmachines to gently push several hundred more elk from around haystacks and cattle operations toward the bait lines and feed site.” 

Feeding hay
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Putting out hay

 

Despite ongoing efforts, there is no quick fix to these issues and elk continue to cause problems in the area. Fish and Game is determined to continue working with members of the community to find solutions to these problems now and into the future. “We will need to engage in additional efforts to help this community,” says Pieron. “Elk numbers in the area are currently over objective and we will be working with hunters through the season setting process to reduce them to more manageable numbers.”