Elk NetworkIdaho Elk Freed from Entanglements

General | February 10, 2023

Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Over the last week Fish and Game has received four reports of elk in the Wood River Valley becoming entangled in items found in residents’ yards, especially garden equipment. Since February 1, elk have become entangled in wire tomato cages, a 5-gallon plastic bucket and a sled and rope. Locations vary from Bellevue, Hailey and north into the areas of Ohio Gulch and East Fork.

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.

Residents that live near wildlife, especially elk, deer, and moose, should inspect their yards, fences, pastures and all other parts of their property for items that could entangle wildlife, and if found, immediately remove them and securely store them in an area that wildlife cannot access.

Tomato cages are particularly troublesome for deer, elk and even moose because they will stick their heads into the wire cage to get at garden vegetation left from the previous year’s garden.

When to intervene

In some instances, when the entanglement does not threaten the life of the animal, no attempts are made to remove the item.

In instances where the entanglement involves a metal object, such as a tomato cage, which is over the head of the elk and will not come off naturally, Fish and Game may make the decision to dart and anesthetize the animal to remove the item.

There are instances when wildlife become entangled and biologists will decide to not intervene. Examples include when it would be unsafe for the Fish and Game team or the entangled wildlife, or if the animal is part of a larger herd making it difficult, if not impossible to get close enough to make a safe and effective shot with the dart gun.

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. 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.

A very small number of Fish and Game staff are specially trained and authorized to use anesthetizing drugs. Conservation officers do not carry any anesthetizing drugs in their patrol vehicles and must call for assistance when drugs are appropriate to use in situations involving entanglements.

If wildlife is observed with any type of entanglement, please call the Idaho Fish and Game’s Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359.

(Photo credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)