Millville's 'elk lady' vows to
keep feeding them until she dies
By Leah Lopshire
May 7, 2008 | MILLVILLE -- Walking into 77-year-old
Jacky Hancey's home you see the vast memories of her
family in the pictures lined up along the floor and
hanging up on the walls. The tan, wrinkled face shows
a lifetime of hard work and service. This is a woman
who since childhood has grown up on a farm and been
a lover and respecter of animals, and savior to some,
in particular the elk of Cache Valley. She gives them
the bread of life during the long hard winter months
in northern Utah.
Jacky started feeding the elk as a child, when her
father was a game warden in Cache County in 1948. After
school Jacky said she and her brother "would harness
up the horses to feed the elk." They did this for a
couple years growing up, but then stopped until 1983
when the herd of elk came down the mountain very sick
Veterinarians wanting to find the cause petitioned
Jacky and her husband to bring some of what was to become
295 dead elk to their home so they could perform tests.
Already dead, the elk didn't provide any answers, so
they took some of the elk that were so weak they weren't
able to move to their home, and the tests came back
showing a disease "same as shipping fever in cattle."
The problem was that by the time the elk slugged through
the snow they are as Jacky puts it, "plum tired," so
when they get to the valley their bodies give out. That's
when Jacky decided to start feeding them again.
With the help of her husband they gathered people
they knew who would help with money and labor, and started
the Cache Valley Wildlife Federation. The first year
they had 400 members. Now the federation has stopped
and been shut down after member numbers dropped to a
handful of people.
Every year since 1983 Jacky has fed the elk during
the winter season. Feeding the elk takes roughly one
ton of hay a day. On top of the price of hay the cost
of hauling the hay gets very expensive. When Jacky started
feeding the elk in 1983, Utah's Division of Wildlife
helped out with providing the hay. That has since stopped,
and the Division of Wildlife now is "not in favor of
us feeding them," Jacky said.
Jacky's response to that is, "tough I'm gonna feed
them anyway. They sit in their offices, they don't see
them come behind that fence and starve to death."
The elk feeding season starts on New Year's Day, after
the hunt is over, and without the aid of the Wildlife
Division she has had to rely on help from her children,
grand children, and volunteers for labor, and donations
for the funding of food. As soon as New Year Day hits
Jacky is out to feed every day during her season, which
ends when the elk decide to leave in the spring, along
with the two volunteers she needs for the day to unload
the ton of hay for her, since she is no longer able
to do it now. Since 1983 Jacky said, "I've only missed
a dozen times in 25 years."
Technically, feeding the elk on government land is
illegal. Jacky said, "they can make you stop, but they
won't because there would be so much public outcry,"
along with Jacky charging after them.
In response to why the Wildlife Division has discontinued
their aid in helping with these animals Jacky said,
"Bunch of idiots. They don't believe in it, and don't
think it necessary." She compares the Wildlife Division
not feeding the elk, with any local person starving
their pets. "People pay for animal abuse for starving
pets, why don't the government have to feed their animals?
Where does all the money go from people paying for hunting
licenses go? "
When Jacky decided in 1983 that she wanted to start
feeding the elk, her now deceased husband of four years
was not as willing to help as Jacky. Jacky would like
to tell the government what she told her husband: "We
should leave here better than when we came, so shut
up and get on board.
"What's disgusting to me is that these people sit
in a office, they don't see them starve."
With this winter being so long and harsh, Jacky's
barn of hay is completely empty, and she is not sure
where the hay will come from for this coming winter.
She is hoping that with all the publicity she has gotten
this past winter from her unusual amount of 71 6-point
bulls, that she will receive more donations.
"The old man upstairs has a lot to do with this because
things have always fallen into place so that we can
do this," she said. "I've always felt helping them is
something my dad would expect of me, and I love it,
I always have. If it weren't for my family these elk
(in Cache Valley) wouldn't exist anymore, and I'm going
to keep helping them until I'm dead."