Do we let the herds of elk gathered along the Wasatch foothills die of starvation, or do we feed them? State wildlife experts contend it is better to let them be - in the long run, it is best for them. So they say.

But after watching TV films showing the great number of dead animals on our landscape, I, for one, disagree with the state's do-nothing attitude.Deer can browse and fend pretty well on the pickings of shrubs, the oak and other bushes - a survival ration. But elk are grazers - theirs is basically a grass-type diet.

Some pretty smart wildlife officials have been feeding Utah's elk at Hardware Ranch for decades. Also, they have kept the Yellowstone herds on the Jackson Hole "pasture."

Utah held the Wasatch herd in Parley's Canyon for many years - with stacked hay on Little Mountain. Often, this writer, as an outdoor scribe, laid in that haystack until feeding time so I could get some news shots, face to face, with the biggest bulls on the mountain.

Today, there is a herd of elk on private land near the mouth of Mill Creek Canyon. They have nuzzled in on a couple of horses for what hay the elk can steal. But with a herd of about 30 mature animals, a snitch of timothy goes nowhere.

These elk will starve to death in quick time unless they get feed. A couple hundred bucks' worth of hay might get them on their feet until they can get onto their native range again.

They are stuck at the mouth of the canyon because we, the people, have occupied their winter range. Contrary to what the state experts tell us, they should be fed - and they can be.

Hack Miller

Salt Lake City

Editor's note: The Division of Wildlife Resources dropped more than 50 bales of hay from a helicopter March 5 to entice starving elk back into the mountains.