The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has been keeping close tabs on the Teton Canyon elk herd, and in response to the herd frequenting urban areas for food, the department has decided to initiate an “emergency winter feeding operation.”
It’s not clear just how many elk are a part of the Teton Canyon herd, although the IDFG has specified that the Jackson herd lands about 11,000 elk. Meanwhile, Yellowstone National Park’s population boasts about 4,000 in the wintertime. Typically, these creatures stick to plants like grasses, herbs and shrubs as well as the bark of aspen trees, conifer needles, burned bark and even a few aquatic plants.
The fact that the herd is traveling closer to suburban life may mean trouble for the area’s elk as well as other grazing mammals.
According to the IDFG, this particular elk herd has become a public safety concern since the 2018-2019 winter season. Lately, these elk have been gathering along the sides of Highway 20 and Highway 33 near Sugar City in search of food sources. The department did not specify whether this herd has exhausted most of its natural food sources. However, officials did specify that this operation will help “hold the elk in a safe location throughout the winter” and prevent mingling with domestic cattle.
Idaho Wildlife Officials Caution Winter Recreators to Keep Distance From Teton Canyon Elk Herd
In order to supply the Teton Canyon elk herd with proper sustenance, Idaho officials are teaming up with private landowners to minimize the interaction between humans and wildlife.
“Fish and Game has once again partnered with private landowners on the north side of Teton Canyon to limit winter disturbance to wildlife by reducing unauthorized snowmobile traffic and winter recreation on private lands,” the department stated in an official media release. “Approximately 17,000 acres of private land will be signed closed to unauthorized winter use from Dec. 1 to May 1.”
Recently, more visitors have come to Teton Canyon in the wintertime to take advantage of its hiking, skiing and snowmobiling opportunities. Unfortunately, this increased activity has an impact on the local elk herd, potentially changing their grazing patterns and forcing them to look for new sources. As the IDFG works with private land owners, it reminded recreators to obey signage and boundary lines.
“Human activity during the winter months has increased in the Teton Canyon area over time, raising concerns for wildlife wintering in the area,” IDFG said. “Fish and Game urges people to recreate responsibly this winter and abide by all signage and private property boundaries. Individuals are responsible for making sure that they have permission to be on private lands regardless of the activity and time of year.”
The IDFG thanked private landowners for their cooperation in supporting the Teton Canyon elk herd’s this winter.