Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Give elk a break

Much as people of the Wood River Valley adore the large, graceful, ubiquitous elk that call this their winter home, it's time to relocate them to a more natural wildlife setting.

It's the humane thing to do.

Triple-digit residential growth over the past 20 years has spread into the once deserted winter feeding grounds of the elk. No provisions have ever been made to provide the herds with an area containing traditional natural forage.

The valley's public officials—the people with the power to do something about elk wintering grounds—have been deaf and mute on the subject while elk were pushed out of Elkhorn, Greenhorn Gulch and now, Warm Springs canyon.

The elk are dependent on human handouts. This has multiple drawbacks. The elk lose the instinct to rely on themselves for survival during winter months, and they clash with urban activities, sometimes fatally.

The dozens of elk in Warm Springs find refuge in winter at a frozen pond, where they luxuriate quietly. They attract sightseers who love them, but the short distance between the two is evidence of a broken ecosystem.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has proposed a relocation program, beginning with rounding up 25 to 50 of the Warm Springs elk that have camped on a private golf course for many winters.

With a proposed new development of condos and townhouses at Warm Springs on the drawing board, Fish and Game plans to lure elk into a corral trap, transport them farther north to Frenchman's Bend and reintroduce them to the freedoms and self-reliance of a wilder place.

It's the best man can do for them now.

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