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Deep snow in mountains pushes elk into valleys

Discussion in 'Turf and Surf Hunting and Fishing' started by Quigley_Sharps, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    Deep snow in mountains pushes elk into valleys
    Wildlife -

    Nearly 1,000 elk are eating hay and feed from farmers' reserves near La Grande in eastern Oregon Saturday, February 09, 2008RICHARD COCKLE The Oregonian Staff

    LA GRANDE -- The toughest winter in 20 years is driving thousands of elk and deer out of eastern Oregon's mountains and into agricultural areas where they are dining on haystacks and living in fields.

    Nearly 1,000 Rocky Mountain elk have moved into the mountain-rimmed Grande Ronde Valley, said Leonard Erickson, district biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, on Friday.

    Elk and deer are trading 12-foot-deep mountain snows at 5,000 feet elevation for an agricultural valley at 2,800 feet that is thinly covered with snow but has drifts in some places. The problem is that the valley's fields offer little to eat and no shelter from winter winds.

    "It baffles me why they are bedding down in that screaming wind," said Erickson, adding that the Grande Ronde Valley "is frozen over; it's iced over; it's snowed in."

    The migration is also occurring in Grant, Baker and Wallowa counties. In the Burnt River Valley south of Baker City, two herds of elk are causing damage to several landowners by getting into haystacks and cattle feed lots.

    Rocky Mountain elk bulls can tip the scales at 1,000 pounds, while cows often weigh 650 pounds and calves weigh 300 pounds. Elk eat an average of 13 pounds of hay daily -- when it's available.

    No large wildlife die-offs have occurred yet, said Bruce Eddy, Fish and Wildlife manager in La Grande.

    But hungry elk are making nightly raids on unprotected haystacks at a time when hay prices are around $180 per ton. Erickson said many ranchers and farmers don't mind sharing some of their hay, "but if you put 100 elk on it for three nights, that's more than they want to feed."

    State wildlife officials this week cautioned citizens against feeding deer and elk, because it usually does more harm than good. The agency said deer and elk have complex digestive tracts and die each year from being fed the wrong food by well-intentioned people.

    Fish and Wildlife biologists are also hearing reports of more cougars in the Grande Ronde Valley, probably associated with the migrating herds of elk and deer. "Any time you get deer and elk congregated, cougars know that" and follow them, Eddy said.

    No serious encounters with humans have occurred, he said.

    State biologists in Union, Baker and Grant counties are spending much of their time wrapping private haystacks with heavy-duty plastic mesh to ward off hungry elk herds. The department also gives ranchers and farmers mesh wire, wood and steel posts to build game-proof haystacks.

    But the worst conflicts are likely to occur this spring, when snow begins to melt from low-elevation fields planted in wheat, barley, grass seed, alfalfa and other crops. Hungry elk and deer love new crops, which are especially appealing in the spring when the mountain forests remain snow-covered.

    "They aren't going to want to leave," he said.

    Richard Cockle: 541-963-8890; rcockle@oregonwireless.net
  2. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    The article is wrong instead of 12 feet of snow there is 12' to 24' of snow.
  3. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Might want to help out those suffering animals. [booze]

    I'll be surprised if ODFW allows a special hunt if they start starving. Probably will spend lots of $$$$ relocating them instead.

  4. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    we have several state feeding stations here, I am guessing they have been using the budget for the last 20 years to take vacation instead.
  5. E.L.

    E.L. Moderator of Lead Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

  6. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Not to get off topic but have you seen Mt. Hood or any of the Cascade peaks lately. I'm betting the Wallowa's and Blues are looking nice. Yesterday just seen Mt. Hood myself, it's been awhile since we haven't had any cloud cover. I'm gonna have to see if it's visible today again. I didn't have my camera yesterday.
  7. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    yea the Eagle Caps and Elk Horn's are amazingly beautiful with all of the snow and mini glaciers on them this year
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