PARK CITY, Utah (KUTV) — Crews are advising drivers to plan ahead following the announcement that portions of Interstate 80 in Utah will be closed due to the relocation of elk in the area.
Utah Highway Patrol released the statement through their Instagram advising of the closure in partnering with Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
They said there are approximately 80 to 120 elk located in the country club zone that will be relocated on Sunday starting at 10:00 a.m.
The length of the closure will be determined by how soon wildlife officials can relocate the elk.
Elk in the area originally became a concern in January, when the animals became stranded on the north side of I-80.
Authorities could be seen on UDOT cameras attempting to corral the herd, which was grazing down the road, frequently dangerously close to cars.
Officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced in February that instead of an organized drive to return the herds to the hills, they will let nature take its course, stating the elk are skittish and it isn't feasible to transport or push them out of the area right now.
Time looks to have run out, and officials will progressively relocate the elk herd.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will make a "human chain" with as many as 30 people, and slowly walk toward the herd, hopefully directing the elk into a draw along I-80 that will lead to higher ground, where snow has finally melted – at least in some places.
Planning for the move is one thing, executing it is another.
"It was intense," said east bench neighbor Jamie Clyde, about an earlier attempt to push the elk back to the high country, only to have the animals return. "I called it harrowing on Twitter. I got a little pushback for that."
It's wildlife, it's nature, and it's unpredictable," said Scott Root with DWR, adding the drive is to coax and push elk to the east---and only to the east. "I'm more optimistic than pessimistic. I think it will work.
For a neighbor near the country club, the round up may be bittersweet.
Mark Dean has had a remarkable vantage point to take photos and video this winter of the elk, which he describes as majestic.
"Oh, I've loved it," said Dean.
Clyde. who has concerns about more development near her home, said she spent time this winter observing the elk when they've been near – and watching them with binoculars from afar.
"They're incredible," she said. "They are our neighbors."