Fish & Game feeding elk near Sugar City in hopes of luring them away from highway
Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials began feeding a group of 50 elk camped dangerously close to U.S. Highway 20 this week in hopes of luring them away from trouble.
The elk have positioned themselves to the east of the highway near Sugar City. So far, Fish and Game officials reported at least one accident between two elk and a semi-tractor trailer has occurred.
“You can probably see them as you drive by when they’re not hiding in the willows,” said James Brower, Fish and Game regional communications manager.
Brower said Fish and Game began baiting the animals on Monday.
“The proximity of these elk to the highway and cattle operations has prompted us to implement an emergency feeding action,” said 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.”
Brower said the herd was initially more than 100 strong when it moved into the area on Feb. 4, 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 toward the safety of the Henry’s Fork (River),” Brower said.
The group of 50, though, seems content to stay near the highway.
“So far, they’ve taken the bait, but then they just returned back to the same spot,” he said. “They’re just wild animals. It makes it fun.”
Fish and Game is asking the public not to harass or get too close to the elk. Any disturbance could push the elk into areas where they may pose a public safety concern and cause damage to property. Brower said so far the animals have not been raiding nearby cattle operation haystacks.
Fish and Game has three emergency conditions that can trigger winter feeding. Those include preventing damage to private property, such as damage to haystacks; public safety concerns, such as elk congregating near a busy highway; and harsh winter conditions.
Brower said these elk moved down from the Teton River canyon area.
“We’re not sure why, our best guess is that snow became deep there and they just went looking for easier places to feed,” he said.