Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Feeding of elk declines in valley

Despite decrease, ungulates still present in neighborhoods

Express Staff Writer

An elk meanders through the Gimlet subdivision mid-valley on Saturday. Wildlife officials say that despite a decline in elk feeding in the valley, elk are still present in many residential areas. Photo by Roland Lane

With winter just around the corner, a wildlife official said the number of elk feeding sites in the Wood River Valley has been diminishing over the past few years.

“We used to have several private feed sites up there [in the valley],” Regional Wildlife Biologist Regan Berkley said. “There was one at Elkhorn, there had been one out Warm Springs … [but] many of those have terminated feeding.”

The Elkhorn feed site used to be near the Community School’s Sagewillow barn, maintained by the Wood River Elk Trust. That site was shut down in 2007, when the Sagewillow Homeowners Association sued the Community School and elk feeder Ed Dumke, claiming that the practice was “socially and environmentally unsound.” The practice had started in the late 1970s or early 1980s, but ended that year.

Despite an attempted resurgence in 2008 and 2009, the practice has ended.

Berkley said that, unfortunately, the elk still don’t seem to have gotten the message. There has been no decline in the number of elk that show up at the Sagewillow Barn in the winter, she said, and she expects this year to be no different.

“That herd was somewhere in the 90-elk range,” she said. “Over the course of the past few winters, we have seen up to that [number] moving around the Elkhorn area during the winter.”

Berkley said elk are also active in Gimlet, where some residents reported to the Idaho Mountain Express that a neighbor had installed a salt lick in a backyard.

“Elk occur naturally in Gimlet every year,” she said, adding that it’s not unheard of for residents to put salt licks in backyards because they like to see the elk herds.

“Just like any animal, they are looking for certain types of minerals and salt,” she said. “It does essentially the same thing that feeding does—it congregates animals in the same area.”

And that’s a problem, she said, as it results in damage to landscaping and increases the likelihood of elk-human conflicts—such as car accidents, especially in those sites near state Highway 75.

Berkley said the major sites remaining are one south of Bellevue and one out Timber Gulch south of East Fork Road. Both sites started as places where 60 elk would congregate. Now, she said, each has more in the neighborhood of 200 animals.

Berkley said the Idaho Department of Fish and Game discourages elk feeding, mostly because it prevents natural migration, can draw predators and can foster disease.

“A lot of people do it because they are concerned the elk are hungry, and people’s hearts are in the right place,” she said. “[But] it’s part of how nature regulates populations, and it’s one of those things where it’s a lot easier to never get it started than to stop it.”

However, the agency seems to be making progress in that area. In addition to the sites shut down in Elkhorn and Warm Springs, Berkley said, she believes that the Golden Eagle Homeowners Association, which normally puts a feed site out Timber Gulch south of East Fork Road, voted this year not to feed the herds.

A call to the Golden Eagle Homeowners Association board to confirm that was not returned to the Idaho Mountain Express as of press deadline Tuesday.

Kate Wutz:

About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2020 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

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.