A backyard swing after being removed from the antlers of a bull elk in the Wood River Valley.

It’s time to winterize your home to protect Idaho wildlife – Local News 8

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) – We all have a checklist we go through when winterizing our homes when fall turns into winter. But did you know you need a checklist of things to do to protect wildlife that might cross your yards?

Idaho residents are encouraged to inspect their yards for objects that may entangle wildlife, especially wildlife with antlers such as deer, elk, and moose. This means taking swings, hammocks, wires and string lights apart and storing them in the garage or other secure storage area. Entangled wild animals can die of suffocation, exhaustion or be injured trying to free themselves. Entangled wildlife can easily injure people trying to help them free themselves from yard equipment.

Each year, Fish and Game offices across the state receive numerous reports of wildlife that have become entangled.

Recently, a bull elk died in the Wood River Valley after becoming entangled and strangled by an object hanging in a backyard.

Elk with hammock in Antlers
A bull elk got entangled in a garden hammock and nearly drowned in the Big Wood River

Often the only way to free wild animals from backyard entanglements is to toss the animal with numbing drugs. Although considered an easy remedy, the use of drugs to release wildlife carries many inherent risks, both for the animal but also for the Fish and Game team tasked with dealing with the entangled animal.

According to Brandyn Hurd, Senior Conservation Officer in the Wood River Valley, “We want anyone who might have deer, elk or moose living near their neighborhood to walk around their yard and look for things that can tangle wildlife. This means that all garden furniture and playground equipment must be removed and secured during the winter months. Wildlife can easily become entangled in this equipment which puts the animal at risk, but it also puts our Fish and Game team at risk as they use drugs to anesthetize the animal and work to free it from backyard equipment.

Wildlife Winter Safety

Wildlife living in and around Idaho communities is common. In winter, most big game migrate to the lower elevation winter range where winter conditions are less severe. But it also increases the potential for wildlife-human conflict.

Here are some additional tips to keep people, their pets and wildlife safe during the winter months.

  • Do not feed wildlife. Although it can be a “feel good” activity for people, feeding wildlife can have unintended consequences for the animals. Deer and elk receiving supplemental feed often quickly congregate in abnormally large numbers in small areas, increasing the chances of spreading disease within the herd.
  • Feeding wild animals like deer can attract them to your residential space, which in turn can attract predators, like mountain lions. Residents of the Wood River Valley have previously reported lions killing deer in their backyards.
  • When re-enacting or simply walking your dog, keep him on a leash at all times. Dogs that hunt wildlife are illegal. When a pet hunts wildlife and scares it away from an area, it uses up essential fat reserves needed to survive the winter.
  • Winter recreationists such as skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers should avoid the big game winter range when animals are present to minimize disturbance during stressful winter months.
  • The owner must cover large basement window wells so that wildlife cannot fall into the wells. As the snow thickens, wildlife tends to walk alongside houses, knocking them into pits.
Cow Elk in the window well
An elk fell down the pit from a basement window while walking near a house in the Wood River Valley

For more information on how to keep the area around your home and communities safe for wintering wildlife, contact your local Fish and Game office.

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