Outdoors Blog

Japanese yew strikes again — this time killing 50 pronghorn in Payette

Japanese yew.
Japanese yew. Idaho Fish and Game

Japanese yew, the plant blamed for killing eight elk in the Boise Foothills two weeks ago, wiped out a herd of pronghorn in Payette, Idaho Fish and Game reports.

The toxic shrub killed 50 pronghorn antelope. The animals were reported to Fish and Game on Tuesday and found in a large grouping. Four deceased pronghorn were taken to the Fish and Game Health Laboratory, where wildlife veterinarian Mark Drew determined that Japanese yew was the cause of death.

“All four animals were in good body condition, but with congested lungs and kidneys,” Drew determined, according to a press release. “All had Japanese yew twigs and needles in their esophagus and rumen; cause of death was yew toxicity.”

[Related: Thirty pronghorn die after icy river crossing]

Pronghorn have been seen along the Snake River near Payette all week, including a time when they bedded on an ice jam.

“There are a number of residences along this route where they may have encountered the shrub,” Fish and Game conservation educator Evin Oneale said in the press release. “Like other big-game species that graze on Japanese yew, they died quickly after ingesting the plant.”

From Fish and Game:

Japanese Yew or Taxus cuspidata is a common landscaping shrub, despite the fact that 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 Japanese yew plants will be encountered. 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.