Idaho Fish and Game Department Guides Massive Elk Herd Across Highway

by Jennifer Shea

Sugar City, Idaho has an elk problem.

Every year for the past three years, a large herd of elk has made its way out of Teton Canyon and into the vicinity of Sugar City.

Sugar City, Idaho Confronts Elk Problem

The herd has now grown to about 150 elk. Sugar City’s problem is that the elk have decided to move from their historic wintering turf in Teton Canyon, and have followed the Teton River to Sugar City, per KIFI Local News.

The elk have snarled up traffic near the Highway 20 and Highway 33 junction, CBS2 Idaho News reports. And everything that wildlife officials had tried up until now had not worked.

First, Idaho Fish and Game officials tried a baiting operation to keep the elk from reaching the highway. No dice. Then officers collaborated with landowners to patrol the area and distribute signs in an effort to protect the elk from passing cars.

Finally, on Tuesday, Idaho State Police troopers worked with Fish and Game officers to help the massive elk herd cross the highway.

It took roughly 15 minutes for the elk to move across Highway 20. But they finally got the animals from the east side of the highway to the west side of it.

“This was a well-coordinated effort and we would like to thank ISP, ITD, Madison County and all of the many landowners involved in making this happen safely,” Doug Petersen, Regional Conservation Officer, told CBS2. “They all played an important part in making sure this happened in the best way possible and without incident.”

Chasing Wildlife is Illegal and Dangerous

Fish and Game officials are asking locals to steer clear of the elk so as not to upset them. Disturbing the elk could cause them to run into oncoming traffic, leading to accidents and injuries, officials said. 

Unfortunately, people spotted several snowmobiles chasing a bunch of elk along the river last weekend. 

“Chasing wildlife is illegal and creates a problem for both the animals and people,” Petersen told KIFI. “Please be respectful and give wildlife some space, especially during this time of year when they are extremely vulnerable.”

Officials cautioned that there may be more elk in the area near the highway, and they may yet decide to cross the highway by themselves. Drivers should exercise caution, they said.