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5 elk die after eating toxic yew plants

The exotic yew, often used as ornamental landscaping, can kill pets, livestock and wildlife
Credit: IDFG

HAILEY, Idaho — Three cow elk and two calves died near Hailey this week after eating toxic yew plants, according to Idaho Fish and Game. 

Remains of both adult elk and one of the calves were found Tuesday near the Valley Club, while the second calf's body was found Wednesday north of town. Yew was found in the digestive systems of all four. 

Conservation officers have not yet found the specific location of the plants the animals consumed. Yew - which is popular as ornamental landscaping - was banned by Blaine County along with other "noxious plants" in a 2016 ordinance. 

Yew plants contain poisonous chemicals called alkaloid taxines which can be fatal to wildlife, pets, and livestock if consumed. Japanese and European yew are especially toxic, according to Fish and Game.

Poisonings are more common during the winter months, when vegetation is scarce and wild animals are pushed closer to human habitats.

Anyone who has yew species planted in their yard or around their property is urged to remove them entirely. If the plants cannot be taken out until spring, owners are advised to fence them securely or tightly wrap the plants in burlap to keep animals from eating from them. 

Credit: IDFG
Yew plant

“I realize that it’s hard to dig up mature landscaping but everyone needs to do the right thing for wildlife, and even to protect your pets, by removing plants like exotic yew,"  Regional Wildlife Manager Mike McDonald said. "It takes a surprising small amount of yew to kill an elk, deer or moose, which are all species that residents can see throughout the valley, almost daily.”

The Ohio Gulch Transfer Station accepts yew debris free of charge, as long as it is not mixed in with other plant and yard debris. 

The Blaine County ordinance banning the plant was put into place after more than 20 elk were poisoned by yew during the winter of 2015-2016.

For more information, contact the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359.

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