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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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For the week of Feb 5 - 12, 2002



Greenhorn elk face new plan

Hazing operations discontinued

Express Staff Writer

Hazing of elk to protect expensive, non-native landscaping in a ritzy mid-valley subdivision appears to have come to a conclusion.

Wintering elk and deer near Greenhorn Gulch will not be subjected to motorized harassment in future years as they have been this year, Fish and Game said. Express photo by David N. Seelig


The Idaho Department of Fish and Game said Monday it will not allow wildlife hazing to occur in the Golden Eagle subdivisions near Greenhorn Gulch in the future, with possible exceptions this spring if the elk return to the valley floor. Harry Rinker, the developer of Golden Eagle I and Golden Eagle II, had obtained permission from Fish and Game to haze the animals using snowmobiles and spotlights earlier this winter.

In a Jan. 17 letter to the Idaho Mountain Express, Rinker said he acted on behalf of the Golden Eagle Homeowner’s Association and their board of directors.

"I did personally talk to (Fish and Game Magic Valley Regional Supervisor) Dave Parrish and passed on his recommendation to the board and the people involved, and they followed his directions and did not haze the elk off of the property but gently herded them when damaging the trees," Rinker wrote.

The hazing appears to have worked, and the wintering elk returned to higher ground.

But the actions upset a contingent of Wood River Valley wildlife advocates who telephoned and wrote Fish and Game and the Blaine County Board of Commissioners.

"You know, in retrospect, it was a mistake to allow those animals to be harassed," Parrish said Friday. "This spring and summer, Fish and Game is going to develop a long-term plan on how to deal with the situation up there."

In fact, state law prohibits harassment of wildlife from motor vehicles, unless permission is granted by Fish and Game.

It is illegal to "use any motorized vehicle to molest, stir up, rally or drive in any manner any of the game animals or game birds of this state," according to Idaho Code.

Parrish would not elaborate on the proposed plan, but in a January interview about the issue, he mentioned that fencing individual trees and shrubs would protect vegetation without stressing the animals during hard winter months.

During winter, elk, deer and other wildlife species live off their bodies’ fat stores, which they pack on when summer and fall forage is abundant and green. Fish and Game often recommends that people give wintering wildlife a wide berth to avoid frightening them.

Ketchum resident Gerry O’Toole agreed that giving the animals plenty of room and freedom to winter where they please is the best policy. He added that Fish and Game should not wait until spring to draft a policy for dealing with the Greenhorn-area elk.

"I think they should do something now," he said. "We have a lot of winter ahead of us. I’m sure we’ll get some more significant snow, and the elk could come back down."

If the heavy snows force the animals to the valley floor again, Parrish said Fish and Game will evaluate the situation and decide how to proceed. He could not promise hazing would or would not occur.

"Hopefully, we won’t have to deal with it any more this winter," he said. "It looks like the elk are moving up on those open hillsides, and they are finding some forage."

Wild elk are a natural part of the Wood River Valley’s ecosystem, but from the 1890s through the early 1900s, the large ungulates grew scarce as settlers over-harvested them to keep food on their dinner tables.

Today, the valley’s elk herd has prospered largely because of recent mild winters, careful hunting management and favorable summer range, according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

In a typical winter, elk are forced from high elevations to search for food, and they move along established migration routes toward traditional winter ranges.

One of the biggest problems facing the Wood River elk herd is loss of winter range, the foundation states in an informational pamphlet.

"The valleys and side canyons are brimming over with buildings, and land is fetching top dollar on the real estate market," the foundation states. "As their prime winter range disappears, elk have been forced to crowd onto the few remaining winter range sites, bringing a host of other problems."


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.