February 3, 2023

Domestic Elk Crash The Gate – Escape!

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The Chief Joseph private elk reserve in eastern Idaho was the scene of the great escape. Around 160 elk, being described as domesticated, appeared to have herded together and crashed the fence knocking it down allowing them to escape.

This group of escapee-elk are threatening to mix in with the elk herd that is part of the Yellowstone gang and this is worrying officials in both Wyoming and Idaho.

What has made matters worse is the owner of the Chief Joseph ranch didn’t report the breech of the fence.

Elk hunting season with bow and arrow has begun in that region and hunters are being asked to make every attempt to recognize the domesticated elk. The elk are supposed to by wearing an orange tag visible from as far away as 150 yards but officials think the owner hasn’t properly tagged his animals.

Today, the governor of Idaho, Jim Risch, has signed an emergency declaration to have the 160 elk killed. The order provides for fish and game officials as well as any licensed elk hunter or private land owner, to kill the elk.

According to officials, the elk can pose a risk to the wild elk in several ways. One way is through the spread of disease – chronic wasting disease, brucellosis or other sicknesses like liver flukes and tuberculosis. Another is through interbreeding. It will weaken the wild elk gene, so some scientists say.

One report yesterday said that the owner of the ranch had refused Idaho officials to test his trophy bull elk for chronic wasting disease. Evidently the owner, Rex Rammell a veterinarian, hasn’t been the model game ranch owner and has had previous clashes with fish and game authorities.

I have to ask if this reaction has gone too far? We should at least raise the question particularly when there are differing opinions about the so-called “genetic purity” of the elk and new studies that show that how we are handling diseases such as chronic wasting disease and brucellosis may not be correct.

Debra Lawrence, chief of animal health and livestock with the Idaho Agriculture Department, says the idea of protecting genetic purity in the elk is overblown.

But, Lawrence, of the agriculture department, said the so-called dumbing-down of the gene pool is an overblown worry.

“They’re the same species,” she said. “The traits for surviving in the wild are the same. An elk will not come out different colors if they breed.”

In an article written in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, a study just completed and printed in the Frontiers in Ecology journal, says the methods being used to test and slaughter are not only ineffective but may be promoting the spread of disease.

As for test-and-slaughter, Bienen says that current efforts to reduce brucellosis in elk herds actually encourage brucellosis rather than stem the disease.

The current test-and-slaughter program at the Muddy Creek feed ground removes roughly 10 percent of the population. But the removal of these brucellosis-positive animals includes some animals that have developed a natural resistance to the bacterial infection, leaving only naive elk – those that haven’t been exposed to the disease – in the herd.

Keeping these resistant animals alive acts in a similar way to vaccination. Killing these animals, and leaving only naive elk, can actually increase disease transmission, according to the study.

For bison, the most recent test-and-slaughter models suggest that eliminating brucellosis would take 50 years and would require killing almost all the animals in the herd. In Montana, a long-standing test-and-slaughter program actually increased brucellosis prevalence from 40 percent to between 45 and 50 percent.

Suggestions for test-and-slaughter programs include an experiment comparing the Muddy Creek test-and-slaughter program with a Gros Ventre feed ground phase-out to see which method yields the lowest brucellosis prevalence over a five-year period.

I should also point out that this same report condemns the use of feed stations of elk and other wild animals saying it is unnatural and is the reason for disease spread.

Maybe ordering the slaughter of these 160 elk is the right thing to do and maybe it isn’t but we must face one reality. We have come to this place because we have created everything that led up to this. Point a finger at anyone you wish but start first by pointing it at yourself.

Greed in one form or another has brought us to a point where disease is rampant among many species of wild game. It it is clear that creating feed stations for animals has become deadly for them, yet we still do it.

It is so simple really but we as humans insist that we have to go against what is natural because we think we can make it better. When you group people together in large masses, especially in enclosed areas, it doesn’t take long before one person’s sneezing, achy, stuffy-head, fever passes on to the next. We think wild animals are different?

The elk farmer wants to raise elk and charge $6,000 a head to have hunters come and hunt them. I know nothing about the ranch and will not sit in judgement as to whether his preserve meets my own standards of a bonafide hunt preserve. The bottom line is the driving force behind the ranch is the $6,000 a head.

The state of Idaho, caved in to pressure put on them by the owner of the Chief Joseph ranch to get what he wanted. Why was it necessary to do that? Was it tax dollars or local increased revenue? Was it good ole politics?

Tourists and wildlife gawkers from their luxury cars demand that they can have drive-up wildlife viewing and not pay for it.

Animal rights groups are striving toward leaving wild animals to fend for themselves with overgrown populations, spreading disease and starving to death.

Hunters want to sit in their comfy, high-tech tree stands and look down on their feed beds waiting for the trophy to appear at the same time condemning the elk farmer.

Scientists insist that animals be brought into areas that were never natural habitat for them, insisting they can make it work. Why? Job security? Because they’re scientists?

Why do we insist that we know better? We grow our own fish, dump them into waters so greedy fishermen can catch them all out – it’s called put and take and everything we are doing now is leading toward put and take hunting. Oh, hell why not?

We are stocking the woods like we stock the rivers, lakes and streams. Man can’t replicate what God did but we keep on trying, spreading disease and threatening what’s left of the real thing.

When will we ever learn……when will we ever learn?

*All posts on the topic:
More Elk Killed In Idaho – Some By Hunters
Idaho Elk Farmer Plans To Sue The State
Scientists Will Test Killed Idaho Elk For Disease And Genetic Make-up
A Helicopter, A Plane And 25 Agents Can’t Find 160 Domestic Elk
Escaped Idaho Elk Being Slaughtered. Wyoming Ordered To Kill Elk Also

Tom Remington