HomeOutdoorsNewsHerd of Determined Elk Return to Major City 1 Week After Relocation

Herd of Determined Elk Return to Major City 1 Week After Relocation

by Caitlin Berard
Herd of Elk Wandering Snowy Plain
(Photo by paulacobleigh via Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Utah wildlife officials and highway patrol worked together to painstakingly relocate a herd of elk who had made themselves a dangerous home near an interstate. After just one week, however, the determined elk returned, setting up camp once again.

According to the Division of Wildlife Resources, the herd appeared near I-80, one of Salt Lake City’s busiest highways, multiple times over the winter, sparking concern for the safety of both the wildlife and passing motorists. Approximately 80-120 elk were grazing on the road, frequently venturing dangerously close to cars.

At first, officials hoped to allow nature to run its course. As elk are extremely skittish, they assumed the animals would eventually flee from the busy area. In the end, however, they had no choice but to take action, progressively relocating the herd by forming a “human chain with as many as 30 people.”

Those involved in the chain would “slowly walk toward the herd, hopefully directing the elk into a draw along I-80 that will lead to higher ground,” the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources explained.

Well, after an “intense” interaction with the “unpredictable” elk, the animals finally left the area. Because of this, wildlife officials were more than a little exasperated when around 40 elk from the herd migrated back down the canyon.

The Utah DWR explained that, due to recent snow storms, they have no plans for another relocation mission. Once it stops snowing, they will choose a course of action to protect both humans and elk.

3 Elk Die After Herd Wanders Too Close to Interstate

A herd of elk grazing near an interstate can be deadly for both the animals and drivers on the road, a fear that unfortunately became reality in February of this year. Just after sunrise on the morning of February 3, a few of the elk wandered away from the grass and into the road, where three were hit by passing vehicles.

Two died immediately upon impact and officials euthanized the third, as it suffered untreatable injuries in the wreck. “They’re wild animals,” Trooper Kendall Holland told KSLTV. “They are unpredictable. They can walk into traffic. They’re a distraction for people that are driving down the road.”

Following the collisions, the remainder of the elk herd retreated to a nearby golf course. Holland knew, however, that they would eventually return. “[Elk] are giant 700-pound animals,” he said. “If they end up in front of you on the road, and you end up hitting them, it could be catastrophic.”

Believe it or not, deer are the most dangerous animal in the country. Not because they’re vicious but because they cause an unimaginable number of fatal car accidents every year. At around twice the size of an average deer, a collision with an elk poses an even greater risk of injury or death.

“We have had all types of different situations in my 32 years of elk being in trouble in some spots,” said Scott Root, conservation outreach manager with the DWR. “This one is probably the most dangerous.”