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Originally published Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 6:00 PM

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What’s killing elk? Study planned in northern Idaho

Idaho Fish and Game workers plan to put radio collars on elk to find out if predators or lack of nutrition are bigger factors in elk deaths in heavy snow years.


The Associated Press

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LEWISTON, Idaho — State biologists plan to capture as many as 30 adult elk and as many as 20 elk calves in northern Idaho starting this week, to put radio collars on them as part of a multiyear study into what’s killing them.

The Lewiston Tribune reports (bit.ly/1b5IeO2) that Idaho Fish and Game workers plan to lure elk in the remote Lolo hunting zone into traps baited with hay. They also hope to catch as many as 10 moose.

Biologist Jon Horne says past studies have found that deep snow makes it harder for elk to find food and escape predators, including wolves.

“The deeper the snow, the higher the chances they have of dying,” Horne said.

He said the most recent study will find out if predators or lack of nutrition are bigger factors in elk deaths in heavy snow years.

“It is sort of tough to tease apart but we are going to give it a try,” he said.

Over the next month, biologists hope to capture about 20 cow elk and 10 bulls for the study.

Horne said this year’s capture involves trapping rather than using a helicopter to fire tranquilizer darts. He said the new method will eliminate some of the agency’s costs for operating helicopters.

“That is one of the reasons we are trying it, to reduce flying time,” Horne said.

Helicopter crashes have also been a problem. The Clearwater Region of Idaho Fish and Game in the last 13 years has seen three employees killed and at least three others injured in helicopter crashes.



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