ELMORE COUNTY, Idaho — Idaho Fish and Game biologists say they've been focusing hard this year on non-lethal methods of preventing elk depredation--and they're starting to pay off.
"At the property where we've had a lot of issues in the past near Little Camas Reservoir, our technicians have been hazing since July 15, and the elk use in those agriculture fields has been extremely low," said John Guthrie, a Regional Wildlife Biologist with Fish and Game.
This summer, they focused hard on four management "tools" in their toolbox:
- Non-lethal hazing deters elk from using the organic farm and depredating on their crops. Hazing techniques include noise and non-lethal rubber slugs and rubber buckshot.
- In the event nonlethal hazing becomes ineffective, Fish and Game staff harvest elk at night on the farm. Nighttime shooting has become necessary due to elk feeding exclusively during the night, which limits the opportunity to use hunters to pursue elk. Over the last few years, elk were largely inaccessible during the day.
- Fish and Game has been working with neighboring landowners to secure access for hunting. There have already been a few successful depredation hunts this year
- Trapping and translocation
- Biologists trap depredating elk and move them somewhere else.
Starting in mid-October, biologists will begin focusing on that last tool, the trapping and translocation effort. The idea is to continue reducing the size of the depredating elk herd. Fish and Game says all elk will be tested for disease following state and federal protocols prior to release in other areas of the state.
Elk depredation is an expensive problem--and one that's been around for decades.
When deer, pronghorn antelope or elk damage crops, hunters and anglers pay the price. In 1990, the Idaho Legislature mandated that Fish and Game compensate farmers for damage.
Idaho News 6 reported back in January every deer and elk permit includes a fee for depredation, and in May of 2017, with depredation payouts increasing, the legislature approved another fee.
In 2018, in excess of $1 million was paid for damages caused by elk, according to the Fish and Game Website.
Fish and Game says based on the success of their efforts to prevent depredation, they're projecting this year's costs to be much lower, although they won't have an official number until much later in the year.