cow elk

This cow elk was one of 16 elk relocated from the Magic Valley region to Bear Valley, northwest of Stanley, in October.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists successfully relocated 16 elk this month from the Little Camas region to the Boise National Forest northwest of Stanley, the Magic Valley Regional Office reported on Wednesday.

 Over the course of three days, five cow elk, two yearlings and nine calves were driven into a funnel trap by a helicopter, loaded into a paneled livestock trailer and transported to the Bear Valley region in Game Unit 34. All animals were ear tagged prior to release and six were outfitted with radio collars, which will be used to assess their movements, the department said.

The elk belonged to a large resident herd of roughly 125 animals in the Little Camas region. The herd has a “history of living almost exclusively on private property and [destroying] agricultural crops,” according to Fish and Game.

Crop depredations in the region have led to “significant” and “expensive” depredation claims by farmers and ranchers over the years, Fish and Game said. Between late July and early September, department sharpshooters killed 41 elk on private land in the Little Camas and Camas Prairie regions to address the problem.

“We’ve reached a tipping point with our elk population numbers in our elk management zones in southern Idaho,” Regional Wildlife Manager Mike McDonald said. “With population numbers … at the upper end of population objectives outlined in the elk management plan, it goes to reason that we’d see increasing issues with crop damage caused by big game.”

In a previous announcement, Fish and Game described relocating elk as dangerous to staff and stressful on the animals. The department reported that no elk or department staff sustained any injuries during the trapping-and-moving operation this month.

Additional elk translocation efforts are tentatively scheduled for late winter or early spring 2021. To reduce herd size and keep elk from returning to private property in the Little Camas and Camas Prairie regions, Fish and Game said it will continue to enlist hunters “when possible” and haze elk at night.

“Efforts in 2020 have shown positive outcomes with what appears to be less crop damage compared to previous years,” the department stated. “Sharpshooting at night may be required [in the future], but that decision will be based off of elk behavior during the summer of 2021.”

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