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DWR Erects Barriers to Protect Elk

DWR personnel erect fence barriers to keep elk from being "ledged up" this winter, as some were last year.

Last week, Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) biologists erected a number of fence-type barriers in the cliffs of the Castle Gate formation high above Price Canyon to prevent elk from becoming stranded as they had been last winter.

In March of 2005, a hiker reported seeing a number of bull elk apparently stranded in the cliffs above Price Canyon west of the water treatment facility. DWR personnel investigated the report and found that seven mature bulls had been "ledged up." Two had already died from starvation. The rest were in very poor condition.

The next day, DWR personnel returned with explosives, rock climbing equipment and tools. They hoped to blast an escape route, which would allow the elk to climb out. However, due to the height and thickness of the ledges, the plan was abandoned.

Biologists also considered using a helicopter for a rescue, but decided against that option, because there wasn't enough room to safely maneuver. After considering all possible means for a rescue, and considering their depleted condition, the agency director made the decision to humanely dispatch the animals.

Hoping to prevent a similar catastrophe this winter, biologists erected a number of fence barriers to block access to those ledges. Poles, posts and cut cedar trees were fastened together to prevent passage by wildlife.

The Castle Gate geologic formation consists of countless stair-step ledge configurations. Attempting to protect wild animals from all of them would be impossible. However, in this specific area, it's highly unlikely that elk will ever be trapped again.

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