Late afternoon on Sunday, December 26, Idaho Fish and Game conservation officers from the Southeast Region responded to a report of two bull elk that had broken through the ice on Treasureton Reservoir north of Preston.
Officers attempted to use a Fish and Game airboat to reach the elk with a plan to cut a channel through the ice for the elk to swim ashore. Unfortunately, the rescue effort was unsuccessful and the elk drowned.
The elk had broken through the ice about 50 yards from the shore of the reservoir and about 600 to 800 yards from where a boat could be launched. Temperatures were below freezing and ice depths varied from 2 to 5 inches, which made it difficult to navigate the boat along the frozen reservoir surface and get to where the elk were located.
“We were moving along on the top of the ice toward the elk, and then our boat broke through where the ice was thinner,” says District Conservation Officer, Korey Owens, of Preston. “After we maneuvered the boat back to the top of the ice, the water on the bottom of the boat froze us to the ice. We were stuck there.”
Using a chainsaw and shovels, it took two hours for the officers to break the ice and free their boat; however, conditions were too dangerous for their safety to continue the rescue effort.
This unfortunate incident serves as reminder that variable ice conditions like this are not just unsafe for wildlife, they are unsafe for people, too.