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HOWE, Idaho — Seventeen elk were killed in Howe Monday night after a semitruck hit the animals on Idaho Highway 33.
The collision happened around 9 p.m., according to a news release from the Butte County Sheriff's Office.
Brian Mays, who lives in the area where the crash occurred, tells EastIdahoNews.com the elk were standing in the middle of the road eating hay bales near his haystack. The semi driver was hauling cattle. He didn't expect the elk to be there and was unable to avoid hitting them.
"There was probably 50 to 100 head in the road. He got 17 of them," Mays says.
Sheriff's office reports show a 2007 Peterbilt semi was on the scene when deputies arrived.
"Some of the elk were severely injured and had to be euthanized; several others were already deceased," the news release says.
The Idaho Transportation Department came to help clear the road, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game worked to remove the dead elk.
Clean-up efforts finished Tuesday morning. Fish and Game spokesman James Brower says most of the meat was salvaged by families in the area.
"It's legal to salvage road kill in the state of Idaho. You have to report it within 24 hours. Elk meat is very good, and the economy being the way it is, people are all about getting some free, fresh meat in the freezer," Brower explains.
This is one of multiple accidents in this area involving elk in the last month.
Mays says it's common for elk to gather on the road near his haystack during the winter. It's a remote area with an abundance of wildlife and elk come looking for food. He works with Fish and Game to help feed them.
Tara Bowen, Mays' daughter, says they've made numerous calls to Fish and Game and Butte County commissioners to try to get a sign placed on the side of the road to alert drivers about wildlife in the area. EastIdahoNews.com was unable to reach a county commissioner for comment.
Mays' primary concern is keeping the elk away from his cattle to prevent any potential infection.
"Elk can carry disease, and if they get close to my feedlot they could infect my cattle," says Mays.
Despite his concerns, Mays says there isn't much that can be done because his property is in close proximity to the elk's habitat and there isn't anywhere else for the animals to go.
"We deal with it all year long," he says. "They're working with me but I don't know what we can do right now. They're thinking maybe the population (of elk) is getting too big in this area and they might try to get a few more hunts going during the season and help alleviate the problem."
The Butte County Sheriff's Office is grateful to everyone who assisted in the clean-up. The crash remains under investigation.