Friday, July 24, 2009

Highway collision kills moose

Driver and passenger uninjured in collision

Express Staff Writer

The Ford truck of Hailey resident Jim Holcomb sits in the shop at Hailey Auto Body Wednesday afternoon. The vehicle was damaged—its windshield shattered and passenger side smashed in—when it struck and killed a yearling moose north of Ketchum Tuesday morning. Photo by David N. Seelig

Hailey resident Jim Holcomb was driving north on state Highway 75 north of Ketchum Tuesday morning when a cow moose jumped out of willows next to the road and into the side of his 2001 Ford truck.

Holcomb, who was headed out with his son for a day of salmon fishing in Stanley, said the moose came out so fast that he had no time to react. Within a split second, his full-sized truck collided with the large ungulate. The collision sent the moose into the passenger side of Holcomb's windshield, shattering the glass. The moose was killed.

The site of the collision was just south of the turnoff for Glassford Drive, about 1.5 miles north of the Hulen Meadows turnoff.

"I didn't see it," Holcomb said. "All of a sudden there was an impact."

Holcomb said other than a few cuts and scratches his son sustained from the broken windshield, the two of them are OK. He said he was able to drive his damaged vehicle south to Hailey Auto Body.

Holcomb expressed regret about the death of the animal.

"I'm still pretty rattled," he said. "We were inches from having that thing come through the windshield."

The yearling moose may have been one of two that have been spotted repeatedly by passersby in the area in recent weeks. A young bull moose that has been seen was not visible at the time of the accident.

Officials with the Idaho Department and Fish and Game and the Blaine County Sheriff's Office responded to the incident, which occurred around 10 a.m. Lee Garwood, senior conservation officer for Fish and Game in Blaine County, attempted to remove the carcass, but his winch broke midway through the job. Crews from the Idaho Transportation Department were able to haul the moose away, Garwood said.

He said the moose was likely using the area because of its extensive willow thickets, perfect habitat for the animals.

Garwood said the spot where the moose was killed doesn't see that many wildlife collisions. Valley areas that do see a significant number of big-game collisions include the Peregrine Ranch stretch of Highway 75 north of Hailey and two additional stretches just north and south of the Bellevue city limits, he said.

"Those are extensive crossing spots," he said.

He said the wet weather the valley received in June has created an unusual hazard out on local roadways. Because of the additional growth of plants and grasses along the highway, drivers' views are impeded. Garwood said drivers need to be extra cautious because of the tall greenery, which in addition to obstructing views is also beginning to draw animals down into the valleys as hillsides begin to dry out.

"It's almost like a tunnel effect," he said.

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