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For the week of January 16 - 22, 2002

  News

Elk hazing upsets some

Golden Eagle protects trees by hazing elk


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Efforts to prevent elk from eating ornamental vegetation near Greenhorn Gulch are upsetting several of the areaís residents.

Elk near Greenhorn Gulch have been on the run recently, as employees from Golden Eagle I and II ride snowmobiles and shine spotlights to scare the animals away from the subdivisionís expensive vegetation. Express photo: David N. Selig

Employees working for Harry Rinker, developer of Golden Eagle I and II, have been chasing elk using snowmobiles and spotlights since mid-December. Itís an action approved by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

"When Mr. Rinker was planning on subdividing, private interests (including Rinker) continued to feed elk up there against our recommendation, with the foresight that it would lead to problems with the absolutely fantastic landscaping, and the expense theyíve gone through to make it what it is," said Fish and Game Regional Wildlife Manager Randy Smith.

Now, elk are still searching the valley bottom near Timber Gulch for the feed site, and theyíre finding Rinkerís handsome ornamental vegetation.

"Some of those cows are fairly long lived, and they can remember where they can get a handout," Smith said. "It wasnít our preference to have those elk fed, but it was okay with us to have them moved off the private land. The idea of moving the elk and hazing the elk off of private property was in line with what we said."

But Dave Parrish, Fish and Gameís regional supervisor, added that hazing efforts are subject to certain conditions. Rinker is not allowed to haze the animals off his property. He is not allowed to "push the herd, and he must use gentle persuasion to minimize the stress on the animals."

Dana Singleton, a Golden Eagle I resident, is a member of the Greenhorn areaís pro elk camp. In fact, she said she moved there, in part, to view the large ungulates and has offered her yard to the elk as a safe haven from the hazing efforts.

"Why doesnít Harry Rinker put elk guards around his trees? I donít know," she said. "All of a sudden he puts all these ornamental trees out here, and he doesnít expect the elk to be here any more."

Smith acknowledged that fencing would be the most "full-proof" means of protecting the areaís vegetation.

"We are prepared to ask Harry to wrap individual trees," Parrish said. "If the snow gets deep and it gets very cold. So, if natural forage is limited, and we feel that natural stress on the elk will be harmful, weíll ask him to wrap individual trees."

Idaho Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rickies Kaz Thea was upset about the hazing, too.

"Over the weekend (two weeks ago), I personally witnessed the elk being chased by snowmobile from the large ornamentals, planted practically overnight, that are part of Harry Rinkerís Golden Eagle II developmentÖ.Itís really twisted how we value remote living, close to nature and yet when nature gets close, we chase it away."

Singleton agreed.

"If you donít want the damage, donít live in the woods," she said. "If you want to live in a city, go back."

Both Thea and Singleton stressed that hazing elk off of private property goes against Fish and Gameís own general recommendations for dealing with wildlife during winter, when wild animals often need summer fat stores to survive until spring.

Parrish addressed a larger issue.

"We need to improve habitat up there for elk on their winter range," he said. "We need to concentrate on improving their native range, so we can get them off of the subdivisions and away from people feeding them."

Smith said the winter habitat just above the valley floor near Timber Gulch is quite good, and there shouldnít be a reason the elk canít survive the winter there.

Attempts to reach Rinker for comment were unsuccessful.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.