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Idaho Fish and Game

A bull elk entangled in a backyard swing in the Wood River Valley.

Residents urged to inspect their properties for objects that may entangle wildlife


Every year, wildlife becomes entangled in home, farm and garden items

No matter the year, wildlife, especially elk, deer and moose can become entangled in items left around homes and farmyards around Idaho. These entanglements tend to happen more frequently during the winter months but can happen anytime when wildlife is attracted to neighborhood yards and farms. As the calendar moves quickly towards the winter months this is a great time for Idaho residents to inspect their properties for items that could entangle wildlife. If potential entanglement items are found, we ask property owners to remove and securely store them in an area that wildlife cannot access. 

Entanglements happen every year

In the winter of 2022-2023, numerous instances of wildlife entanglements occurred in the Wood River Valley, in southcentral Idaho. One of the most common entanglements was wire tomato cages around the necks of elk. Tomato cages are particularly troublesome because removal typically will not occur without human intervention.

Cow elk with wire tomato cage around its neck in the Wood River Valley.
A cow elk with a wire tomato cage around its neck in the Wood River Valley.

The Wood River Valley also saw wildlife entangled with 5-gallon buckets, a plastic sled, Christmas lights, and lead ropes/horse halters.

October 2022 a bull elk died after becoming entangled in a yard swing south of Ketchum.

A bull elk with an entangled plastic sled in the Wood River Valley.
A bull elk with a plastic sled entangled in its antlers in the Wood River Valley.

Common items recently found entangled in wildlife include swing sets, hammocks, lawn decorations, tennis court nets, Christmas wreaths, clotheslines, food containers, barbed wire, bailing twine, and haystack tarps.

Senior Conservation Officer Wampler works to remove a tennis court net from the antlers of a bull elk.
Senior Conservation Officer Wampler cuts a tennis court net from the antlers of a bull elk in the Wood River Valley.

Drain decorative ponds in winter

Decorative ponds are often built to add curbside appeal to residential areas. However, if the pond is not drained before winter, the pond can become a hazard to wildlife. Every year, moose, elk and deer fall through ice and become trapped in decorative ponds, particularly in the Wood River Valley. In the winter of 2022 – 2023 a moose calf succumbed to hypothermia and exhaustion after falling through ice in an upper Wood River Valley decorative pond. 

Daylight window wells

Many homes have large daylight window wells to provide a safe escape route for occupants in case of emergency. Elk and moose have become trapped in window wells. When winter snow gets deep, the area under the eaves of the house is often the easiest place for wildlife to walk, which is also where window wells are located. To keep wildlife from falling into the window well, while keeping a safe escape route for occupants, it’s suggested to lean boards, like a 2”x 4”, diagonally across the opening from the lawn to the side of the house. The goal of doing this is to encourage the animal to walk around, and not over, the window well. 

If wildlife is observed with any type of entanglement or becomes trapped after falling through ice or into a window well please call the Idaho Fish and Game’s Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359 or your local Fish and Game office.