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Two elk calves found dead in Ketchum after eating toxic plant

Yew, which is popular as ornamental landscaping, was banned by Blaine County with other noxious plants in 2016. The elk were found dead in the Warm Springs area.

KETCHUM, Idaho — Two elk calves were found dead in the Warm Springs area of Ketchum on Friday after eating an ornamental yew, according to the Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG).

Conservation officers have not yet found the specific location of the plant the animals consumed, but they did confirm the elk had yew in their system. 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 Idaho 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, Idaho Fish and Gem advices homeowners to fence them securely or tightly wrap the plants in burlap to keep animals from eating from them. 

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.

“We continue to see the end result of wildlife dying from eating ornamental yew that is planted around homes," Regional Wildlife Manager Mike McDonald said. "It’s surprising how small an amount of yew it takes to kill an elk, deer or moose, which are all species that residents can see throughout many Idaho communities.”

For more information, contact Idaho Fish and Game's Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359.

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