The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be using four elk-management tools this summer and fall to reduce crop damage and depredation claims in the Magic Valley region, the department announced Monday.
Those include hazing or relocating the animals, shooting them at night and allowing hunters access to affected land.
One property especially impacted by elk residency—a farm in the Little Camas area west of Fairfield—has attracted herds of over 450 animals, Fish and Game said.
“Over the last five or more years, farms throughout the Magic Valley Region have seen an increase in crop damages caused by ever-increasing elk populations that sometimes reside almost exclusively on private land,” the department stated. “In 2019, because of intensive prevention efforts including hazing, hunting and sharpshooting to mitigate elk damage, crop damages were down nearly 75 percent from the previous year. That’s a reduction of over $750,000 worth of damage.”
Initially, Fish and Game staff will use “aggressive” nonlethal hazing methods such as rubber slugs and rubber buckshot to deter elk from consuming crops.
“In the event nonlethal hazing becomes ineffective, Fish and Game staff will harvest elk at night on the [affected] farm,” the department stated.
Fish and Game officers say that nighttime sharpshooting has become necessary because elk have been feeding almost exclusively at night.
“In the event elk become accessible during daytime, Fish and Game will work with neighboring landowners to secure access for hunting,” the department said. “Hunters who possess Game Management Unit 44 antlerless tags and depredation tags would be eligible through a random drawing.”
Officers would be posted on-site to manage hunting activity, the department said.
“Hunters are the preferred method to reduce elk numbers because their harvest helps to reduce the size of the herd, saves funds and puts food on Idahoans’ tables,” it said.
Starting this fall, Fish and Game will be piloting a trapping and translocation program—a less-lethal means to reduce herd size.
“All elk will be tested for disease following state and federal protocols prior to release in other areas of the state,” the department stated.