Sunday, March 19, 2017

Feeding An Elk Herd

This winter has been the most difficult one I’ve seen in the Bear Lake Valley since we moved here in 1999.  So far, snowfall has been over 10 feet and we are sure to get more.  Of course, it was more compact on the ground so it was just a few feet deep, but when combined with thick layers of ice it has been very difficult for wildlife to find food.  There are places where people feed deer and elk every year in this area, but this year new feeding stations have been set up to take care of animals that normally make it through winter on their own.

Micah Rigby and R C Hymas on their three-horse sleigh.

In Bear Lake County alone, 20 emergency feed grounds have been set up for deer, and 4 for elk.  I was fortunate to be able to ride along on a horse-drawn sleigh with fellow photographer Jim Parker to feed a herd of elk at Banks Valley, Idaho.  The public was asked to stay away to avoid stressing the animals.

Even the horses seemed interested in the elk herd.

A work sleigh with three horses was driven a couple of miles by R C Hymas and Micah Rigby for the cross country trip to where a herd of about 400 elk was waiting.  The elk have become accustomed to sleighs at the annual feed grounds, but here the elk were wild, and they kept their distance.  As the sleigh was driven along the line of elk, sections of hay were kicked off from four big bales so they would be strung out enough for all the elk to get to some.  They lined up like kids in a school lunch line to be fed.

These animals were easily spooked and if one started to run, several would go along, but they wouldn’t go too far as long as they had hay to eat.

I admire the way these guys handled their horses.  The jobs of harnessing and driving these beautiful animals were second nature to them, and I appreciate all they are doing to help Idaho’s wildlife.

Jim Parker holds the tired horses while they are unhitched from the sleigh.

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