The unofficial caretaker of 500 elk wintering along a bench east of Millville says her hay barn is nearly empty and she is appealing for donations to help the animals survive the winter.

Jackie Hancey, who with husband Owen feeds the herd, said Saturday the hay will be gone within a week if she continues to scatter 40 bales a day among the elk.The hay was stacked in a barn built by the Cache Valley Wildlife Federation during the devastating winter of 1984 that prompted local volunteers to start a big-game feeding effort.

Every day, the 57-year-old Hancey has loaded hay into her four-wheel-drive pickup truck to feed the elk concentrated east of the "big-game fence" running from Logan Canyon to Blacksmith Fork Canyon.

She said her father, Morgan Jensen, was working as a state game warden and helped build the fence in 1950 after deer and elk lost their winter feeding ground to housing development.

John Kimball, big-game manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Northern Utah District, said that since 1984 the division has not supported supplemental feeding except at the state operated Hardware Ranch, about 8 miles from Millville.

He said the local Wildlife Federation agreed to feed some elk rather than have them culled from the herd by special hunts.

Hancey said that agreement has worked fine for the past few years because winters have been mild.

"Hay is at a premium price this year because of the summer drought, yet we don't want the elk to die from starvation," she said. "If we were to open the gate, the state would have to pay far more in damage within the community than it would cost to feed the elk."

Meanwhile, she is encouraging the public to donate hay or money to the cause.