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Idaho Back Roads: Saving deer and elk

Fences, underpass and draw-down save wildlife
Posted: 4:34 PM, Feb 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-21 06:36:37-05

LUCKY PEAK RESERVOIR, IDAHO — It was a scene that was upsetting to nearly anyone who saw it. A catastrophe for deer and elk traveling a migration route the herds had likely been using for hundreds if not thousands of years.

"In 2004 as you probably know, we had about ninety elk and twenty-five mule deer go through the ice down just above the high bridge at Mores Creek and drown," said IDFG Senior Wildlife Technician Peter Ott. "And we had about five hundred elk that were attempting to cross at that same location."

In a collaborative effort to avoid a repeat of that scene and reduce the number of deer and elk killed by cars, wildlife managers and water managers took action.

The first piece of the puzzle; a system of fences to keep them off the road and direct them to an alternative path of travel.

"One of the big things that the fencing does is it moves them several miles up the road from that Mores Creek arm when they're moving across," said Ott.

Second; an underpass, that allows them to go under highway twenty-one, keeping them off the road and out of the path of traffic.

Once the animals get funneled under this underpass they end up at a part of Lucky Peak Reservoir that this time of year is at a level the Boise River Water Manager calls "elk pool"

Water managers keep the level low enough that elk and deer only have a small shallow stream to cross, keeping them away from the deeper channel where thin ice means almost certain death.

Fish and Game just finished the fencing project this year, and judging by the numbers it appears to be working.

"So I haven't had any recorded deer mortalities within the fenced corridor this season," said Ott. "And historically we would have had several dozen at this point in the year."