By Jerry Painter, firstname.lastname@example.org, February 7, 2020
The Idaho Transportation Department, Idaho State Police and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game played crossing guard to about 130 elk on Highway 20 near Sugar City on Friday morning.
The highway was closed and traffic diverted for about 20 minutes while the elk were “coaxed” across the road, said James Brower, regional communications director for Fish and Game.
The 130 elk were part of a group of 150 that showed up on Thursday near the highway after hiking down from the Teton River Canyon to the east.
“We played crossing guard, absolutely,” Brower said. “It was pretty smooth, worked out pretty slick. At about 11 a.m. we started pushing the elk and we were able to push them over to the west side of the highway.”
He said 20 of the elk had crossed by themselves earlier.
Brower said the elk headed west and most settled in a better area near the Henry’s Fork away from the highway.
This is the second herd of elk to move down from the Teton River Canyon and gather next to the highway near Sugar City this winter. A group of 70 elk were helped across Highway 20 in late January.
“We hope this will be the last group that comes through, but we hoped that last time,” Brower said.
He said when spring arrives, the elk will start moving back east across the highway, but Fish and Game expects them to travel in small groups or singles.
“We expect they will probably come back piecemeal,” he said. “They’ll start coming back when they are starting to calve. They kind of separate for the most part and are not one big cluster.”
In February 2019, six elk from this same herd were struck and killed on Idaho Highway 33 shortly after midnight. Idaho Department of Transportation has posted warning signs on Highway 33 and Highway 20 hoping to avoid the same tragedy this winter.