Idaho Fish and Game: Dealing with elk depredation in the Magic Valley

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 4:38 PM MDT
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JEROME, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — This year Idaho Fish and Game of the Magic Valley has received about 25 calls from landowners regarding elk in their fields eating and trampling their crops.

This act is known as depredation and it’s one of the bigger problems facing Magic Valley farmers and biologists today.

“We have them causing damage loss on oats, grains, alfalfa, pretty much anything we grow down here they’ve found. Sugar beets. It’s kind of a perfect storm almost. They’ve got food, they’ve got water from irrigation, corn provides shelter, it’s pretty easy for them to make a living in those areas,” Miranda Reison, a Regional Biologist with Fish and Game said.

When these animals reach the fields the most important thing is getting them out so that no more damage can occur to crops.

Fish and Game has developed many non-lethal techniques to try to remove the animals.

“We use a couple different hazing methods a lot of the time its noise stimulus and sometimes pain stimulus,” Reison said.

She continued, “Noise we use cracker shells, pyrotechnic type things to try to scare them out of fields and then in certain situations we can use a painful stimulus through like rubber bullets or rubber slugs to try to divert them out of those fields.”

If the non-lethal methods are unable to draw out the animal Fish and Game has the authority to use lethal methods for removal.

However, this year it has only reached that level twice meaning that non-lethal hazing methods have been successful over 90 percent of the time. The reason for this is the quick action by those who spot the elk and report them.

“I think the most important thing to note is the proactive approach that the Magic Valley region has taken, and statewide as well, is we work with these landowners consistently to try to address their problems and that having those healthy relationships and having a good working relationship to help mitigate and prevent as much as possible,” Reison said.

Slowing down elk depredation is one of the most important things Fish and Game does in the Magic Valley and as we approach the harvest these animals are going to be a lot more likely to move toward farmland so be sure to keep your eyes and ears on the lookout and report them to Fish and Game.