Heavy snow pack has forced elk to browse on innocent looking shrubs.
Conservation officers in Blaine County, Idaho, located in south central Idaho, have recovered at least 15 elk over the past few weeks that have apparently died from eating yew plants that community members planted for landscaping purposes.
Several dead elk were recently picked up by an Idaho conservation officer from a local country club and subdivision. The conservation officer opened up the animals and positively identified yew plant material in the animals’ stomachs.
Elk first began to be reported dead in late December in a local cemetery. Conservation officers headed to the cemetery and found 10 elk had died, and all were to believed to have browsed on the poisonous yew plants located nearby.
After the deaths of the elk in December, local authorities removed the poisonous yew plants from the cemetery but no ordinance was placed on the shrubs themselves. Currently the county commissioners of Blaine County are set to met January 26 to discuss a possible ban on the non-native plant.
Idaho conservation officer Alex Head, who has taken the lead on dealing with the dying animals, has said, “We need to get everyone to identify whether they have yew at their home and to get it out of there.”
Yews are small evergreen shrubs from Europe and Asia that are well adapted to the cold temperatures of the region. The plants are known to be toxic to many different animals and to people as well.
The elk of Blaine County have been pushed to browse on the shrub due to heavy snowpack of the surrounding area. With cold temperatures and snow in the forecast, it doesn’t appear the snow will be leaving anytime soon. In the meantime, residents have been encouraged to voluntarily remove the plants and take them to the local dump free of charge.