- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

HAILEY, Idaho (AP) - State officials apologized for poor oversight of a wildlife feeding site in central Idaho where dozens of elk, mostly calves, died last winter and say that improvements will be made.

Idaho Fish and Game officials said 43 elk died at the Bullwhacker site in Warm Springs Canyon near Ketchum. Officials say most of the elk starved after being unable to get to food.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports (https://bit.ly/255EJW8) that officials at a meeting Wednesday in Hailey said they’ll keep the site open but expand it so elk have an easier time getting to the food.

“In all the range of alternatives, we still think that Bullwhacker is the right thing to do, and we’re committing to you and the community to do it right,” Ed Schriever, the department’s deputy director for operations, said at the meeting.

Fish and Game said elk are fed at the site eight miles west of Ketchum to keep them from moving into their natural winter habitat in the valley that’s now filled with houses, where they might cause property damage or get hit by vehicles.

“The most important thing is public safety of folks in Ketchum,” said Toby Boudreau, a regional supervisor with Fish and Game.

Officials said competition for food among the elk in a small area meant calves failed to get enough food and starved. The 43 dead elk included 38 calves, four cows and a yearling bull. Officials said that at least seven of the elk were killed by mountain lions.

Daryl Meints, a wildlife manager with the state agency, listed changes for this winter at the site. He said two newly hired employees who worked at the site last winter weren’t adequately supervised. He said better training and closer monitoring with regular reports will be required of employees.

He also said an existing wooden feed-storage shed will be replaced with a metal building that has a rodent-proof, concrete floor. The state agency also plans to clear stumps, logs and rocks to expand the feeding area to two acres.

Another change will be using a hopper attached to a snowmobile to spread alfalfa pellets over a wider area. The food has been spread by hand previously.

Officials said the site is used by about 180 elk, less than 4 percent of the nearly 5,000 elk counted in the region called the Smoky-Bennet elk zone.

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Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, https://www.mtexpress.com


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