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Hungry Elk And Deer Find Trouble In Variety Of Northwest Towns

Blaine County Sheriff
An elk crashed through a window into a resident's daylight basement north of Hailey, Idaho, early Wednesday morning.

This winter’s heavy snows have brought hungry elk and deer down out of the hills into Northwest towns. That’s a recipe for trouble.

In Hailey, Idaho, City Administrator Heather Dawson said elk, moose and deer are “commonplace” in town this time of year.

“And there’s migration corridors both north of the city and south of the city,” she added.

In the last week or so, Hailey has seen 10 elk die in the town cemetery from eating poisonous Japanese Yew plants. City of Hailey and cemetery workers have removed the Japanese Yew from the cemetery to prevent future elk deaths.

Meanwhile, the Blaine County Sheriff’s office said the past week has been busier than usual for a normal week of winter with wildlife.

In Hailey, an elk tumbled through a window an into a resident’s finished basement and a small deer got stuck for hours halfway through an iron gate. Sheriff’s officers were able herd the trapped elk back outside after a couple of hours and officers were able to cut the small deer free.

Dawson said Hailey regularly informs residents when wildlife move toward town. She said locals are pretty wildlife-savvy, but the city reminds residents often how to avoid conflicts with their cloven-hooved neighbors.

“To leave them alone, to keep away from them,” Dawson said. “They are wild animals and their behavior isn’t going to be predictable.”

If residents in Hailey are feeling pressed about their wildlife, they have only to look to Ashland, Oregon. There, deer appear to be year-round residents. That town has even held a “Deer Summit” in September to address nuisance animals that aren’t afraid of people.

In Wenatchee Heights, Washington, elk are mowing down fruit orchards. And near Kellogg, Idaho, another herd of elk are hanging out dangerously close to Interstate 90.

In Washington state alone, there have been 710 large animal versus vehicle crashes since September 1, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.