Above average snow depths in the Weiser River drainage could present survival problems for wintering elk in the area, and Fish and Game personnel are closely monitoring weather conditions to determine if and when winter feeding efforts might begin.
The public is invited to be part of this monitoring effort by noting the location of wintering elk in the upper Weiser River drainage and calling Fish and Game's McCall office at 634-8137 with that information.
While a normal winter produces some elk mortality - particularly in the young and old segments of the population - extended periods of deep snow and low temperatures can increase that mortality. A snow depth of 24 inches has been recorded in the Council area with greater depths measured in the surrounding mountains. "We have some areas of deep snow but fortunately, temperatures have remained moderate," wildlife manager Jeff Rohlman noted. "That will help minimize the energy drain on these animals."
Most Weiser River zone elk take refuge on winter ranges in the Hells Canyon and Squaw Butte country, where moderate winter conditions still exist. "We're concerned about the small, scattered groups of elk wintering in the upper Weiser River drainage," Rohlman added. "The good news is, our field observations and check station information indicate that elk went into the winter in good condition." Elk in good condition can withstand these severe conditions for a period of time. Still, pelleted alfalfa has been ordered in the event that winter conditions worsen to the point that feeding becomes necessary to avoid heavy elk mortality.
The Department of Fish and Game is authorized to feed big game in only two instances; to alleviate or prevent excessive private property damage or to prevent excessive mortality of big game populations in drainages that would affect the recovery of the herd.