For the second time in less than a week, a large herd of pronghorn antelope in Idaho has died.
The most recent incident occurred Tuesday when 50 antelope were found dead in the west Idaho town of Payette. According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the antelope died after feeding on Japanese yew plants, which are the same toxic plants that killed eight elk in the Boise Foothills two weeks ago.
The pronghorn were reported to Fish and Game early Tuesday afternoon. Conservation officers located the 50 animals in one scattered group. Four of the carcasses were transported to the Fish and Game Health Laboratory for evaluation to confirm the cause of death.
All four animals were in good body condition, but with congested lungs and kidneys,” said Dr. Mark Drew, Fish and Game wildlife veterinarian, in a press release. “All had Japanese yew twigs and needles in their esophagus and rumen; cause of death was yew toxicity.”
Japanese yew is a common landscaping shrub. However, its soft, waxy needles are fatal to a variety of species, including elk, moose, horses, dogs and even humans. In some locations, this year’s winter weather is pushing big game animals into more urban neighborhoods, increasing the likelihood that the animals will encounter Japanese yew plants.
Because of the risk to big game animals, the department urges homeowners to inventory their property and remove and landfill any Japanese yew that might be growing at their residence. Alternatively, the plants can be wrapped with burlap to prevent access by big game animals.
A day earlier near Rupert in south-central Idaho, 30 pronghorn antelope died attempting to cross the frozen Snake River at Lake Walcott.
According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, 10 antelope were killed and partially consumed by coyotes. Another 20 had to be euthanized by wildlife officials because of the severity of their injuries sustained while slipping and falling on the ice. The injuries included dislocated hips and shoulders.
However, six pronghorn were successfully rescued from the ice.