A tomato cage, a sled, a bucket: Idaho elk are getting entangled in yard items

Several elk have become entangled in household objects in the Wood River Valley over the last week, prompting the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to urge residents to remove any items that could pose a hazard to wildlife.

In a news release, the agency said it has received reports of elk tangled in a 5-gallon bucket, a sled and wire tomato cages. Fish and Game conservation officers recently anesthetized a cow elk with a tomato cage around her neck so they could remove the object.

Officials said it’s the latest rash of entanglements in a trend they’ve seen for several years. The news release noted elk have become tangled in “a wide range of objects, such as swing sets, hammocks, a dream catcher lawn decoration, tomato cages, a tennis court net, Christmas lights, Christmas wreaths, clothesline, barbed wire, bailing twine, horse halter and lead rope and the bottom of a bird feeder.”

Some instances aren’t life-threatening — such as when items get tangled in a bull elk’s antlers, which are shed around March. Officers opted to remove the wire tomato cage because they didn’t think the item would come off on its own.

A bull elk in the Wood River Valley was seen with a sled and rope entangled in his antlers.
A bull elk in the Wood River Valley was seen with a sled and rope entangled in his antlers.

Fish and Game urged residents of the Wood River Valley — which includes Sun Valley, Hailey, Ketchum and Bellevue — to check their properties for items that could be a risk to wildlife. The agency said tomato cages pose a significant risk, as moose and elk will sometimes become trapped in them while looking for leftover garden vegetation.

Officials said anesthetizing wildlife is difficult on the animals and can even be deadly. Some animals react differently to the sedatives, and some may run into traffic or other hazardous situations before the drugs take effect.

Fish and Game said anyone who sees entangled wildlife in the Wood River Valley should report the sighting to the Magic Valley Region Office at (208) 324-4359.