Elk study planned in northern Idaho

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

The Lewiston Tribune reported 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 said past studies have found 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 ho 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 the Idaho Fish and Game in the last 13 years has had three employees killed in helicopter crashes and had at least three others injured.

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