On Feb. 4 a herd of about 100 elk wandered into a rural area between Sugar City and Rexburg. The elk have been easily sighted from both Highway 20 and Highway 33 and are a cause for concern to passing motorists. Madison County Sheriff’s office and Idaho Fish and Game are aware of the situation and are monitoring the herd closely. Fish and Game is feeding the animals to prevent them from causing problems.
“They are in a tough spot to move given their proximity to Highway 20, Highway 33 and the high density of fences in the area,” says Wildlife Manager Curtis Hendricks with Fish and Game. “There is nowhere to push them without causing potential safety concerns.”
GPS collar data from several animals in the group allowed wildlife managers to determine that these elk came from the Teton canyon area.
“It is likely that recent weather events may have caused the elk to move down the canyon,” suggests Hendricks. “We will keep close watch on them as we work with local law enforcement to move the elk safely if we can.”
During the winter months it is not uncommon for wildlife to move closer into cities or towns. As the snow gets deeper and starts to crust, animals like deer, elk and moose seek lower elevations where the snow is not as deep and food is easier to access. Elk in particular are easily drawn to haystacks with the allure of an easy meal.
Wildlife Biologist Duston Cureton who has been monitoring the elk herd since they moved in, says he will be working with local landowners to help prevent damage to their property and keep the elk out of haystacks. “The last thing we want is for these elk to set up shop where they could cause damage or an accident,” says Cureton.
The Idaho Transportation Department has placed a sign on the roadway warning motorist of the danger. Drivers are cautioned to be on the lookout for wildlife crossings, slow down and follow all traffic safety rules.
-Update Feb. 11-
Fish and Game has implemented a winter feeding program for around 50 elk that have positioned themselves to the east of Highway 20 near Sugar City.
“The proximity of these elk to the highway and cattle operations has prompted us to implement an emergency feeding action,” says Duston Cureton a Wildlife Biologist for Fish and Game. “We are hoping to lure them away from the road and into a more secluded area to prevent accidents and property damage.”
The herd was initially over 100 elk but has since splintered into several smaller groups. The largest of these groups has already crossed to the west side of Highway 20 and seems to be headed towards the safety of the Henry’s Fork.
Idaho Fish and Game is asking for the cooperation of the public in not harassing or getting too close to the elk. Disturbance could push the elk into areas where they may pose a public safety concern and cause damage to property.
For more information about winter feeding of big game animals in Idaho click here