Idaho Fish and Game started an operation to capture at least 70 elk. The operation took place in an area between Little Camas Reservoir and Anderson Ranch Reservoir north of Mountain Home. The Idaho Fish and Game built fences to funnel the elk into a capture corral. Once the elk got to the corral, the plan was to tag, collar, and load the elk into trailers. After loading them into the trailers the Fish and Game planned to transport the elk to Bruce Meadows area about 20 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho.
“The first day was a learning day, and we made some adjustments. We only trapped one. The second day we caught 15. Not every push was successful because these are wild animals and they have a mind of their own. It’s worse than herding cats. I think our largest group that came through was about four or five. We started to see behavior that we couldn’t even get them near that trap. They started to figure out the game. … They were wise to it. So we decided to pull the plug.” – Craig White, Idaho Fish and Game supervisor
Elk can be tricky to catch
Unfortunately, wild animals don’t like being caught. Idaho Fish and Game officials used a helicopter and several ATV’s in an attempt to push the elk into the corral. After two and a half days and multiple push attempts, officials were only able to capture sixteen elk. The operation was part of the Idaho Fish and Game’s effort to remove the problem elk off of farms in the area. Every push the helicopter would start dozens of elk moving towards the corral. However, as they got closer and closer to the corral the majority of them would break away and escape. Likewise, after two and a half days the elk became wise to what was happening, as a result, the elk began avoiding the area altogether. Consequently, Fish and Game officials called off the operation at mid-morning on the third day.
“We’ve been working on this for several years. About three years ago there were about 450 elk on the fields coming in.… Last year we had 200 to 250 on average coming in. We saw about a 70% reduction in the (depredation) claims. This year the final numbers aren’t in on the claim. They were finishing digging potatoes as we were capturing elk.” – Craig White Idaho Fish and Game supervisor
Elk in this area have caused tens of thousands of dollars in crop damage on average. The Idaho Fish and Game has been working aggressively to shrink elk numbers in the area. In 2018, IDFG had to pay out a $1 million settlement to a single farmer for damages to his potato crop. As a result, the state Legislature has put a limit on the amount a single farmer or corporation can receive in a settlement. The Idaho Fish and Game would like to see a reduction of at least one hundred more elk. During the summer months, IDFG officials used sharpshooters to kill the elk that were causing depredations. Likewise, they had workers spending the night in fields to attempt to haze the elk out of the fields. They have also allowed more hunters onto the land to harvest elk.
“Once these elk get into standing corn it’s virtually impossible to get them out. They are just tearing up standing corn and over several months they can do a pretty significant amount of crop damage. The depredation law requires the department to compensate private property owners for damage caused by big game. We have several elk that have collars on them so that helps us track them, especially in the summertime when they’re moving in on the croplands. These elk have learned to do it at night. The tech’s schedule was basically night until 6 or 7 in the morning. But these elk reside almost exclusively on private property, which makes them unavailable to hunters. About the only time, these elk leave the private property is when they go on to the winter range down on (Bureau of Land Management) ground.” – Terry Thompson, Fish and Game regional communication manager.