DWR to relocate at least 80 elk from SLC golf course to mountain
SALT LAKE CITY — Sunday is moving day for a herd of elk that has been hanging out at the Salt Lake Country Club since late January.
At 10 a.m., the Utah Highway Patrol will close major roads at the mouth of Parleys Canyon, and workers with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will try to herd them into the mountains.
“We really want to get them out of the golf course and right up that mountain to where they belong,” Scott Root, conservation outreach manager with the DWR said.
He said he’s never seen so many elk in neighborhoods for this long of a period of time during his 32-year career. They’ve waited for a chance to help the elk escape the dangerous web of busy roads at the mouth of Parleys Canyon, and tomorrow is the day.
Root has managed a lot of unusual wildlife encounters for the DWR, but nothing like this operation.
“A lot of crossed fingers,” he said. “But we have a lot of staff on hand, a lot of emergency personnel from several agencies.”
Unable to forage for food in the deep snow up higher on the mountain, around 80 elk found their way to the safety of the tasty golf course more than a month ago.
“We just hope we can gently move these elk and guide them up the mountain from the Salt Lake Country Club golf course,” he said. “We’re a little nervous, but we’re optimistic.“
They plan to form a human chain with approximately 20 DWR workers and coax the herd of elk above Parleys Canyon.
“We came over to see the elk,” said Christine Balderas.
She and her husband, Dan, have lived nearby all their lives and are fascinated with the plan. This evening, they got a good glimpse of the elk from across the interstate at Tanner Regional Park.
“We figured it out after driving around the country club that this was the best vantage point,” she said.
They hope the plan works.
“They know what they’re doing at the DWR,” Dan said. “If not them, who?”
Root said the roads may start closing at 9:30 a.m., I-80 will close from Mountain Dell to 1300 East. I-215 and Foothill Boulevard will close near the mouth of the canyon. Emergency personnel will set up strategically to try to keep the elk from heading the wrong direction.
“Elk are going to go where they want to go,” Root said. “But we hope we can just make this happen quickly because we realize these very busy and important roads cannot be shut down for very long.”
They hope they can move the herd in less than an hour, but the elk are unpredictable. They’re asking everybody to stay away from the area because they don’t want anyone or anything to spook the elk and disrupt the operation.
“It only takes one person to make everything kind of not work,” the DWR manager said. “Literally, that happened last time. There was one person out looking at what we were doing and the elk took a right. But we were lucky enough to be able to push them back up the hill.”
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