The anterless elk hunt will look a bit different this fall in the Wood River Valley.
In controlled hunts, hunters apply for tags in a lottery system. This year, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game did away with that system in areas that include the Pioneer and White Cloud Mountains and north of the Snake River in south central Idaho.
This season, 5,000 elk hunting tags were sold on a first-come, first-serve basis in these areas. Mike McDonald, the regional wildlife manager for the Magic Valley zone, said the shift in policy is to help with the growing elk population.
“We’re at or over all of our management objective of all of our elk zones in the region," he said. "This is an opportunity to basically to try to reduce elk numbers."
More elk lower in the valley means more encounters on agricultural land. McDonald said lately this has been an issue in corn fields.
“Those are extremely challenging depredations to deal with because we don’t have real effective ways to keep elk out of corn or to keep them out of corn once they get in there," he said.
Fish and Game pays farmers for damages done by big game through a state fund. Last year was an expensive year and the amount paid for agricultural damages in the Magic Valley region between 2018 and 2019 jumped by over $1 million (2019 payments cover the 2018 season).
McDonald said one reason for this jump was an uncharacteristic drought last summer that drove elk to irrigated farm land. Elk interfering with standing crops like alfalfa, barely, and corn represented the largest chunk of the price tag. And, McDonald said, most encounters with elk on agricultural land happen in Gooding, Elmore, Camas, and Blaine counties.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
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