WPR News
7:06 pm
Tue February 8, 2005

One-Year Anniversary of Elk Deaths

Rawlins, WY – The Game and Fish Department has not seen a repeat of the massive elk die-off that happened a year ago southwest of Rawlins. It was a year ago Tuesday that the first sick elk was discovered. It's believed that about 500 elk died last winter after eating a lichen that contained some sort of toxic compound. Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what it was in the lichen that caused the problems. Meanwhile, Game and Fish is keeping a close eye on the elk herd and the Red Rim area, specifically. Wildlife Biologist Greg Hiatt says the unusual occurrence of so many elk in that area last winter has not happened this year. He says a few dozen bulls have wandered into the southern part of Red Rim, but nothing near the 800 or so that were there last winter. Hiatt says if large numbers of elk return to the Red Rim area, the plan is to let them go and monitor the area closely. If any signs of last year's illness reappear, then Hiatt says they will haze the elk out of the area with an airplane. In the long-term, Hiatt says the event was really only a blip in the history of the huge elk herd that stretches from Interstate 80 to the Colorado border. He says they backed off the cow harvest last fall and are back to the level they would have been.