The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) use GPS collars to monitor and track elk and deer in real time. They also learn some interesting behavior along the way, like the vagabond life of a freedom-seeking cow elk.
Senior Wildlife Technician Clint Rasmussen tracked two cow elk that seemed to have first-class cases of wanderlust.
One was captured and collared in 2015 about 6 miles east of Fairfield in January 2015 while on winter range. She then migrated about 40 miles almost due north and summered near Alturas Lake.
Nothing out of the ordinary there, but in the 2016 winter, she overshot Fairfield and proceeded nearly 75 miles south from Alturas Lake and wintered in the Hammett area near the Snake River. Maybe winter conditions forced her farther south that year, or something else, it’s difficult to know. But she returned to Alturas Lake again for the summer of 2016.
Clearly she enjoys summers at Alturas Lake, and if you’ve ever seen this sparkling mountain lake in the Sawtooths, it’s easy to see why. But apparently, she isn’t as faithful to her winter range because, in 2017, instead of following the geese south, she headed northeast about 45 miles to Antelope Flat near Clayton.
Where did she go for summer, 2017? You guessed it. Alturas Lake.
Go here to find more information about the IDFG collaring program.