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Idaho Fish and Game sees elk entanglements increasing in Wood River Valley

Idaho Fish and Game has received four reports in the last week of elk entangled in items from residential yards across the Wood River Valley.
Credit: Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG)
A team of Fish and Game staff work to remove a wire tomato cage from around the neck of an anesthetized elk.

BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho — Idaho Fish and Game is seeing elk entanglements from yard items continue across the Wood River Valley, with four reports in the last week alone in the area. 

Since the start of February, officers have received reports of entangled elk in Bellevue, Hailey, Ohio Gulch and East Fork, with items varying from wire tomato cages, a plastic bucket and a sled and rope. According to Idaho Fish and Game's announcement Wednesday, items in residential yards have been a problem for years. 

Wildlife such as deer, elk and moose are especially at risk of becoming entangled with items due to their antlers. IDFG asks residents to inspect their property for any hanging or unsafe items, such as swings, hammocks, wires and strings of lights. 

"Over the past few years, wildlife has become entangled in a wide range of objects, such as swing sets, hammocks, a dream catcher lawn decoration, tomato cages, a tennis court net, Christmas lights, Christmas wreaths, clothesline, barbed wire, bailing twine, horse halter and lead rope, and the bottom of a bird feeder," Wednesday's release said. 

In December 2022, a bull elk died in the Wood River Valley after it was strangled by a backyard item. Another bull elk came close to drowning in the Big Wood River around the same time after it became entangled in a hammock.

Idaho Fish and Game also found a cow elk in Blaine County recently with a wire tomato cage around its neck. IDFG said tomato cages are "particularly troublesome" for wildlife, as animals attempt to reach vegetation from a garden from the previous year. 

Credit: Idaho Fish ang Game (IDFG)

If an entanglement involves a metal object over the head of an animal that will not come off naturally, Idaho Fish and Game may be forced to anesthetize the animal in order to remove the item, such as a tomato cage. 

"The decision to use anesthetizing drugs to immobilize an animal is never easy or straightforward. The drugs are extremely powerful and can be deadly to the animal. Darting can be stressful to the animal and each animal may react differently to the drugs," Wednesday's release said. "Fish and Game must also take into consideration where the animal may run before the drugs can take effect, which can be several minutes. After darting, the animal may run across a busy public highway, into a nearby river or even into a neighborhood where it becomes a public safety hazard to residents."

There are also times when Idaho Fish and Game finds it nearly "impossible" to get close enough to the animal to use a dart gun. Those instances may happen if the animal is part of a large herd or freeing the entanglement is dangerous to both the animal and fish and game staff. 

Credit: Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG)
A team of Fish and Game staff work to remove a wire tomato cage from around the neck of an anesthetized elk.

If you see wildlife in any type of entanglement, call the Idaho Fish and Game's Magic Valley Regional Office at 208-324-4359.

Credit: Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG)
A bull elk in Blaine County has been seen with a sled and rope entangled in its antlers.

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