A herd of 41 elk died Tuesday morning after the animals fell through the ice at the Brownlee Reservoir near Richland, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The elk fell through the ice at the Powder River arm of the reservoir, department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said.
The herd tried to cross the reservoir from the north side at about 9 a.m., Dennehy said. The ice broke in four places as the elk crossed, she said.
Herds of elk often cross the reservoir at the Powder River arm, but conditions were different when the herd crossed Tuesday, Dennehy said. Because of this, the elk fell through the ice, she said.
Fish and wildlife employees drove to the area to try to save the elk or salvage their bodies for meat, but they could do neither, Dennehy said. By the time employees got to the area, only four elk were still alive, Dennehy said.
Fish and wildlife department officials called the elks’ deaths a “sad situation” in a Facebook post. They added that the cold weather in eastern Oregon “may be tough on critters this winter.”
Though the extra snowpack and moisture is good for wildlife in the long run, more animals may die this winter because of the colder weather and harsher conditions, Dennehy said.
However, this winter is more typical than the past few in eastern Oregon, which has suffered a drought in recent years, she said.
Baker City had its coldest Christmas on record this year, with temperatures dropping as low as 6 degrees below zero. The town also saw more than seven inches of snowfall on Christmas Day, breaking records set in 1948, according to the Baker City Herald.
– Samantha Matsumoto