Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wildlife trying to hang on

Kudos to Pat Murphy for pointing out the value of wildlife in our communities. The generalization that wildlife has vanished based on his backyard observations, though, may not stand up on a broader scale.

The 49 elk that he refers to were probably the concentration of fed elk that were eventually relocated by Fish and Game a number of years ago. Heavy winters still bring elk to the river bottom, but we really haven't had a cold, deep-snow winter for several years, so winter sightings are fewer. Elk and deer can be seen nearly every day now on the hillsides between Deer Creek and Ketchum as they move to summer range.

The high fox population maintained by artificial food sources was quickly reduced when mange swept through the valley a couple of years ago. Some coyotes were also affected. Those populations will likely rebuild to previous levels. Police officers and local Fish and Game officers still get many bear calls each summer with Ketchum being the center of this activity.

The larger critters like deer, elk and moose are definitely impacted by encroachment into riverine habitats. The development at River Run will certainly deter elk and moose that use that area. Wildlife doesn't just move away from urbanization and live happily ever after. Less or poorer-quality habitat means fewer individuals survive. It's not dramatic, it's insidious. I agree with Pat—it isn't a sign of progress.

Roger A. Olson


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