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Elk trample fence, stake claim at River Heights tree farm

February 4th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

Story and photo by Lis Stewart

RIVER HEIGHTS—Hundreds of trees were destroyed when elk broke through a fence at the Zollinger Fruit and Tree Farm in January.

Ron Zollinger, owner of the 107-year-old farm, said he has not yet assessed the damage. Two full rows of evergreens were stripped of branches and there are now large holes in the deer fence around his property.

“Elk are aggressive enough that they can knock down a fence and go through,” Zollinger told the Hard News Café.

Larger trees are not safe from elk, Zollinger said. They can grab an entire branch and essentially split the tree, which ruins it for sales. “It doesn’t take much to cause a lot of damage,” he said.

Zollinger said the last time he checked there were probably close to a hundred head of elk in the area, and at least that many deer. Deer and elk are a common sight in yards and parks during the winter. They are most numerous on the mountain bench where the Zollinger farm is located.

Wildlife are more likely to come out of the mountains searching for food when snow is deep and temperatures are cold, and Cache Valley has no problem in that area. The cold temperatures freeze the top layer of snow, making it difficult for deer and other wildlife to paw through for food. So, they move down into the valley.

Residents at the foot of the mountains are used to seeing wildlife along roads and in yards, and many agree that something needs to be done about the growing population.

Some people think feeding the animals will help the situation. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says that can do more harm than good. On Feb. 3 DWR posted an article on their website called “Don’t Feed the Deer.” The article gives several reasons why feeding deer can be problematic. One is that deer will stay in the same area after they are fed, even when winter is over.

Despite cautions from agencies like the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, people still feed the deer. A sign in the nearby Denzil Stewart Nature Park encourages planting native vegetation in yards to attract wildlife. The nature park’s purpose is to preserve a habitat for wildlife in the area. Houses surround the park boundaries.
“(This was) their winter range before development came in,” Zollinger said. “The number of deer at the foot of the mountains is getting bigger and bigger every year.”


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