OLYMPIA — Jody Taylor’s creative solution to feeding thousands of elk safely and more efficiently has not only paid off for his employer, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), it’s garnered the maintenance mechanic a 2007 Innovation in State Government Award.
Based at the Wenas Wildlife Area, southwest of Ellensburg, Taylor is responsible for feeding about 1,200 elk each day during WDFW’s annual winter-feeding operation, which occurs from first snow to mid-March. Overall, the agency feeds about 7,500 elk in Yakima and Kittitas counties.
In the past, at least two people had to pack the feed trucks with five tons of 100-pound hay bales, drive to the feed sites and distribute the hay by hand. The task was time-consuming and costly.
After studying the situation, Taylor devised a one-person system that uses a tractor to load the truck with several 1,300-pound bales. The bales rest on movable tracks, which are controlled inside the cab. As the truck makes its rounds throughout the gathered elk, an automated arm slices off portions of the hay.
WDFW first used Taylor’s time-saving device at the Wenas area, saving thousands of dollars in labor and feed costs. The modified feeder has worked so well, other feeding sites have adopted the method.
Each day during feeding season, the agency doles out hay at eight sites throughout the region to lessen stress on wintering animals and prevent them from seeking food on agricultural land.
“Jody’s always working on better ways to get the job done,” said Paul Dahmer, the wildlife area section manager who nominated Taylor for the state’s innovation award.
“Because of his creativity and initiative we have a more efficient, safer and cost-effective way to feed wintering elk, which is a huge job.”
Taylor isn’t stopping with one innovation. He’s created a spindle device that compactly rolls up old wire fencing, and has designed re-entry gates to help keep elk within the fenced wildlife area.
A 16-year employee of WDFW, Taylor received his award earlier this month from Secretary of State Sam Reed at a ceremony in Olympia. The Washington State Productivity Board program each year recognizes employees and teams for submitting original ideas that save money, generate revenue or improve services within state government. According to the program, state employees have saved the state more than $53 million since its inception in 1982.