Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Elk collisions increase abruptly

4 accidents reported within one-week period

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office is noticing increased numbers of elk in the Wood River Valley, which Sheriff Gene Ramsey attributes to an increase in vehicle-versus-wildlife collisions. This herd was photographed last spring crossing state Highway 75 north of Hailey. Photo by Roland Lane

    After several months with only a few vehicle-versus-wildlife accidents in Blaine County, last week there were four collisions involving elk on state Highway 75 in the Wood River Valley.
    Two were south of Bellevue, one was near Peregrine Ranch north of Hailey and the fourth was just north of East Fork Road. While no drivers were injured, total vehicle damage amounted to more than $10,000 and some of the animals were killed.
    “We went for quite a while with just sporadic instances, and then we had two weeks without one deer or elk accident,” Sheriff Gene Ramsey said this week. “Then, in the last week, we had the rash of them within a 10-mile stretch of the highway.”
    Ramsey said his patrol officers have observed larger than usual numbers of elk moving back and forth around the valley.
    They’re pretty active just after sundown and before dawn,” Ramsey said. “They’re moving around, looking for something to eat and going down to the river to get water.
    “We’ve got more elk in the valley,” Ramsey said. “I think they were displaced by the fire. I know we’ve got at least four herds of 50 or more.”
    There were two accidents on Monday, Dec. 9, the first near Peregrine Ranch in the reduced nighttime speed limit zone north of Hailey. It was the first reported vehicle-versus-wildlife accident on the 2.75 mile stretch of the highway since the nighttime speed limit was changed from 55 miles per hour to 45 mph.

We’ve got more elk in the valley. I think they were displaced by the fire. I know we’ve got at least four herds of 50 or more.”
Gene Ramsey

    The accident occurred at about 5:50 p.m. when Blaine County resident Marylen Sierra, 44, collided with an elk while northbound in a 1999 Toyota car. The Sheriff’s Office reported earlier that the animal suffered a broken leg and was euthanized.
    The second accident on Dec. 9 occurred at about 7:45 p.m. just north of the highway intersection with East Fork Road. Ramsey said a southbound 2000 Volvo, driven by Steven Smith, 56, of Hailey, collided with an elk that “ran out directly in front of the vehicle.”
    The third accident occurred at about 10:40 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12, just south of Bellevue when a northbound 2005 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, driven by Steven Hogan, 47, of Hailey collided with an elk.
    A fourth accident occurred at about 1 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, about five miles south of Bellevue. Ramsey said that Alvaro Tamayo-Carillo, 34, of Hailey, driving a 2005 Dodge pickup, collided with a large bull elk “that got up and ran off.”
    Ramsey said that unlike deer, which tend to be solitary or hang out in small groups, elk are a herd animal and if there’s one there’s likely to be a lot more.
    “I think we’ve proven that the reduced speed limit north of Hailey is effective, so I would advise people to slow down because there’s a lot of elk in the valley,” Ramsey said.
Terry Smith:

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