Snow creating hardship for local wildlife
A friend called me and asked; “How is the weather up there in Rexburg?”
“It is still and clear,” I answered.
“I heard it was snowing and blowing!”
“That is what I said; it is CLEAR up to my backside and it is STILL snowing!”
Every conversation I have recently had usually ends with hate for all the snow and the storms that interrupt our plans to have some fun. My snowblower has even started to complain, but it has seriously created a hardship on all the wildlife.
Elk have left Teton Canyon and invaded the area north of Rexburg; antelope have been killed by a train while trying to get away from the deep snow; deer have started to die and are invading haystacks and the Great gray owls have started showing up in large cottonwood groves along the rivers.
“Really, this winter has been about normal, but it can change quickly,” James Brower, the Idaho Falls Regional Communications Manager for Department of Idaho Fish and Game, said this week. “People in the outdoors have to be very careful not to spook big game as they have limited reserves to survive the rest of the winter. South slopes are still in good shape for the animals but late February and March will be very critical for their survival.”
Brower said they have already heard complaints of antler hunters already harassing the animals and said that any disturbance can be devastating to their survival. Two dead deer have already been found on Ririe Reservoir from unknown causes as the coyotes and birds cleaned up them quickly.
Several herds of elk have set up camp in the Hibbard and Salem areas just northwest of Rexburg. They usually bed down in a low spot during the day but spend the early morning and late evening looking for food. They can be seen eating branches off cottonwood trees and stealing hay from cattle and horses. If you want to take pictures of them, stay in your vehicle because once you get out, they will run away causing them to use up their stored fuel which is irreplaceable now.
“This is the second year in a row that we have seen them leave Teton Canyon because of snowfall and recreational snowmobilers pushing them out,” said Brower.
This winter has seen 45 antelope killed by a train and in the same incident another 19 were “smushed” so badly that they had to be put down by Fish and Game personnel. Another train incident killed 11 head of elk near Dingle.
Both mule and White-tailed deer are also feeling the pinch from the heavy snow that we have been blessed with; and it looks like we will have another round of the white stuff this weekend. Deer and the elk have been getting into haystacks causing farmers to fence and cover their feed from them.
“Once the animals learn where the food is, they will be back as long as it is available,” Brower said. “Alfalfa is not good for the deer and elk can digest it better than the deer, but it fills their belly.”
The one good thing about the deep snow in the mountains is that it forces the Great Gray owls down into the valley. This week I have been watching four of them as they have been harvesting rodents like mad. Most of them should stay until the snow depth in the mountains will allow them to hunt there.
The groundhog predicted that we still have another four weeks of winter left; darn, his hide, and that is about two weeks too long for me and a few others including some of the animals. Spring sports starts in two weeks and I am itching to go rockhounding – so those of you praying for more snow, we have enough until next December.