SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Multiple elk were killed after being hit by vehicles near Parley’s Canyon at the I-80/I-215 interchange Wednesday morning, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
Faith Jolley with the DWR states that the majority of the elk are near the Salt Lake Country Club golf course area, though a group of around 20-30 elk broke off from the herd Wednesday morning and moved near the freeways.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) temporarily closed traffic lanes around 9 a.m. on I-215 and I-80 so biologists and conservation officers could herd the elk across both freeways into a safer area. However, two of the elk were hit and killed prior to the closure, and two others were injured and forced to be euthanized as a result.
The elk that were euthanized will reportedly be donated to the Game Meat Donation program, so the meat won’t go to waste.
UDOT reopened the freeways around 9:30 a.m. after the elk had been moved across the roadways, but Jolley is urging the public to continue to drive slowly in this area.
“Remain alert and watch for elk and other big game migrating through the area. We want drivers and the elk to be safe,” she said.
Jolley says 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, they are reportedly seeing an increase in the number of big game animals migrating into the valleys and urban areas.
“It’s a delicate situation,” Scott Root, Utah DWR, says. “If they do start back up the hill, then we’ll respond immediately with the other agencies and try to get them to be able to do so.”
At this time, Jolley says around 60-70 elk are still in the Salt Lake Valley near the I-80/I-215 interchange area in search of food. The DWR and other agencies are reportedly continuing to monitor the situation and work toward solutions for human and wildlife safety.
“These elk are very skittish, and it has not been feasible to herd them all back up into the mountains. For now, we are trying to keep them on the golf course and away from the roadways,” Jolley said.
Root adds, “We would ask the public’s help to please stay away from the area. It might be nice to get a good photo, or go hike and look, but please just stay out of the area — we want to thank the public’s cooperation in slowing down in this area.”
With temperatures increasing in the next week, Jolley says they are hopeful the elk will naturally migrate back into the foothills to find natural food sources.