Herd of elk causes delays on roads near Parleys Canyon; 2 hit, killed by vehicles

Feb 1, 2023, 9:22 AM | Updated: 12:49 pm
A herd of elk cross I-80 near the mouth of Parleys Canyon on Feb. 1, 2023. (UDOT)...
A herd of elk cross I-80 near the mouth of Parleys Canyon on Feb. 1, 2023. (UDOT)

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — The Utah Department of Transportation warned drivers to be on the lookout as dozens of elk crossed roads near the mouth of Parleys Canyon.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesperson Faith Jolley said the group of roughly 20-30 elk broke off from the main herd, which consists of 60-70 elk, and moved toward Interstate 80 and 215 Wednesday morning.

“There is a chance people will encounter elk in areas where there isn’t traffic control currently” while the herd remains in the Salt Lake Valley, UDOT crews said.

Traffic controls were in place until 9:30 a.m. when DWR biologists herded the elk across I-215 and I-80 above Foothill Drive. The animals then continued to the top of the mountains.

“We are unaware if there are stragglers, so continue to be cautious,” UDOT tweeted.

Two of the elk were hit and killed by vehicles. Two others were injured and were euthanized by DWR crews. Jolley said the elk that were euthanized will be donated to Utahns through the Game Meat Donation program, so the meat doesn’t go to waste.

The majority of the elk are on the nearby Salt Lake Country Club golf course, according to Jolley.

The herd caused traffic delays over the weekend as they entered the Salt Lake Valley. Jolley said the elk have come down to lower elevations to escape deep snow and to find food in the valleys.

“It is common for elk, deer and moose to migrate to lower elevations during the winter months when their food sources are covered by snow in the mountains. Due to the significant snowfall this winter, we are seeing an increase in the number of big game animals migrating into cities,” Jolley said.

The elk are “skittish,” and the DWR and other agencies are monitoring the situation. It hasn’t been feasible to herd them all back up into the mountains, Jolley said Wednesday.

“For now, we are trying to keep them on the golf course and away from the roadways. With temperatures increasing in the next week, we are hopeful they will naturally migrate back into the foothills to find natural food sources,” she said.

Over the weekend, DWR biologists posted some tips for residents and commuters in the area:

  • Please use caution and decrease your speed if driving in this area. Elk and other big game animals on roadways present a serious safety hazard for motorists. Wildlife can be especially active during low-light conditions and are difficult to see on the roadway.
  • Drive alert and keep an eye out for elk or other wildlife on or near the roads. Big game animals cross many roadways throughout Utah during migration and in search of less snow and food sources.
  • Do not approach the elk if you see them. It is unsafe and can cause the animals to move into roads and other problematic areas.
  • Don’t feed the elk or other big game animals, due to safety concerns, disease concerns and the potential harm to the animals from introducing foods not in their diets, particularly during winter months. We have implemented emergency feeding for deer in parts of Summit and Rich counties and will continue to monitor the body fat conditions of big game and winter conditions in other parts of the state, as well.

“We ask for tolerance and patience from local residents and drivers in the area while the elk are here,” Jolley said.

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Herd of elk causes delays on roads near Parleys Canyon; 2 hit, killed by vehicles