Idaho Fish and Game staff on Jan. 16 euthanized 20 pronghorn antelope that were injured and stranded on the ice while attempting to cross the Snake River at Lake Walcott. Fish and Game staff also rescued six pronghorns, and another 10 were killed and partially consumed by coyotes.
On Sunday, Jan. 15, ice anglers at Lake Walcott notified Fish and Game staff that about 500 pronghorn had attempted to cross the frozen reservoir. They said about 200 made it across, then a portion of the group spooked and ran onto an extremely slick section of ice, where they were slipping and falling. The remaining antelope in the herd turned back and returned to shore.
Fish and Game staff investigated that afternoon and found 47 pronghorn stranded in the middle of the frozen river. Due the remote area and fading light, staffers decided to gather equipment and mount a rescue the following morning.
Fish and Game staff and state wildlife veterinarian Mark Drew were on the ice by 9 a.m. and used an airboat to reach the animals. They found 36 pronghorn remaining, but 10 of those had been killed by predators.
Crews were able to get six uninjured pronghorns into the airboat and transport and release them back on shore. Drew examined all the stranded animals and determined that the other 20 had suffered significant injuries due to slipping on the ice and dislocating hips and shoulders. Those animals were euthanized, and the meat was salvaged, processed and is being donated to people in need.
“At least they’re going to be used. That’s the only silver lining,” Regional Supervisor Toby Boudreau said.
The Lake Walcott area is a traditional migration route for wintering pronghorns, but this was an unusual event.
“I have never seen anything like it in my 26-year career,” regional wildlife manager Daryl Meints said.