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Idaho Fish and Game Ask Idahoans Not to Plant Japanese Yew

Photo by Lynn Kinter, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Photo by Lynn Kinter, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) Idaho wildlife officials have asked Idahoans to plant alternatives to Japanese yew after a large number of animals were killed this winter after eating the plant.

In a news release, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game asked homeowners, landscapers, developers and nurseries to use other decorative plants other than the poisonous shrub.

This winter Idaho Fish and Game says 30 elk, 50 pronghorns, a couple moose, several deer, and a number of domesticated animals died from eating Japanese yew. The deaths happened all across Idaho from Boise to Preston.

Officials say any type of yew can be poisonous such as Irish, English, or Chinese yew. Fish and Game has encouraged citizens to remove any and all yew plants for the safety of wildlife and pets.

Photo by Lynn Kinter, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

According to Lynn Kinter, Fish and Game’s lead botanist in a press release, “I know it’s a hassle to remove shrubs after they’re established, but doing so can save wildlife, as well as domestic animals like rabbits and horses,” Kinter said. “Elk can die from eating only a few mouthfuls of yew leaves. Dogs can die simply by chewing on the pruned branches.” Even the dry dead yew leaves can be toxic and must be thrown away, preferably in a landfill were animals cannot get to it.

Idaho Fish and Game provided a list of alternative plants that are not harmful to animals:

Idaho native evergreens that are non-toxic and can tolerate some shade:

  • Western swordfern (Polystichum munitum)
  • Oregon boxleaf (Pachystima myrsinites)
  • Curl-leaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius)
  • Russet buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis)
  • Oakleaf sumac (Rhus trilobata)
  • Oregon grape-holly (Berberis aquifolium, Mahonia aquifolium)

Idaho native shrubs that tolerate some shade, but are not evergreen:

  • Syringa (Philadelphus lewisii)
  • Woods rose (Rosa woodsii)
  • Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
  • Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor)
  • Mallow ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus)
  • Rocky mountain maple (Acer glabrum)
  • Golden currant (Ribes aureum)
  • Red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
  • Common snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus)
  • Red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea)
  • Highbush cranberry/mooseberry (Viburnum edule)
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia, A. utahensis)
  • Twinberry honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrata)
  • Mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina)
  • Mountain huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum)

Non-native evergreen shrubs that tolerate some shade:

  • Evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)
  • False cypress (Chamaecyparis spp.)
  • Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)
  • Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’)

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