September 27, 2023

Has Government Gone Too Far? More Escaped Elk Shot

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What’s really going on in Idaho? Where is the truth? What is the truth? Why is government destroying private property?

Just today another report arrived in my mailbox telling of another bull elk killed belonging to the Pine Mountain Ranch.

There’s been another case of domesticated elk escaping from a private hunting reserve in eastern Idaho.

Idaho state agriculture officials shot and killed a trophy sized, seven-point bull elk near the town of Bone Wednesday morning after spotting a blue ear tag on the animal that identified it as domestic livestock owned by Pine Mountain Ranch.

In a report from the Idaho Statesman the reason officials shot and killed the bull elk was out of fear of spreading disease and cross breeding with wild elk.

State game and ag officers Wednesday found the escaped bull elk 400 yards from a county road and shot it after spotting a blue ear tag that identified it as a domestic livestock animal. Because it no longer had a clean bill of health from the Department of Agriculture, officials said the elk was killed to prevent disease transmission and crossbreeding with wild elk.

The question that keeps burning inside me is why? Why is it necessary to keep killing elk that have escaped from someone’s elk ranch? And why, in this case, did all of a sudden this one bull elk lose its “clean bill of health”?

If we believe everything we read in the media, domestic elk in Idaho must all be carrying chronic wasting disease, brucellosis, TB and probably some diseases nobody’s thought of yet. Along with the disease, these elk must be some kind of genetically inferior mongloids that if they interbred with a wild elk would immediately cause death and destruction to the rest of the world.

In asking why, I had to ask if Idaho has any control whatsoever over the agricultural industry there. Elk raised by ranchers are considered livestock, not wild animals. The Idaho Fish and Game Department doesn’t control them but with what has gone on now one would think they did.

Here was my reasoning. From all the reports I’ve read, Idaho has never had a case of chronic wasting disease or brucellosis, reported in all of the domestic elk ranches. It is my understanding that there are about 78 such ranches there.

The newly released website of the Idaho Elk Breeders Association has a statement right on the home page that boasts no disease.

Our members have worked extremely hard to assure that we are raising the healthiest elk possible. Every animal is regularly tested for TB, Brucellosis, and CWD (upon slaughter). As a result of our hard work and preserverance, there has never been a documented case of a positive CWD result in any domesticated elk herd in Idaho.

And a representative of the Black Canyon Elk Ranch says the same.

Idaho has never had a Positive CWD, TB or Brucellosis in ANY of it’s private domesticated herds. Thus, we are obviously doing something right!

Realizing that we don’t live in a perfect world and accidents can happen. We’re a good people that seem to work together to make sure that all reasonable and legitimate steps are taken to minimize any potential dangers.

If there are 78 elk ranches in Idaho and there has never been a case of CWD or brucellosis, then somebody must be doing something right. These two diseases are prevelant in neighboring Wyoming and they have banned elk farming.

I contacted somebody from the Black Canyon Elk Ranch in Idaho to see what they as elk ranchers do to prevent the spread of disease.

The Idaho Dept of AG does an exceptional job at what they do, they are very responsive to any and all concerns with our elk industry. They have records on thousands of brains which our ranches have been testing for the past several years.

It becomes clear to me that if an elk rancher is following the guidelines and running a good solid business using sound and proven business practices, they would know at any given time how many animals they have, they would have documented evidence of all veterinary treatments of all their animals, they would have documented proof of testing for disease, etc.

I also wanted to know about this subject of protecting the gene pool of wild elk versus domestic elk.

…what harm is it if Health Certified Animals & Genetically Pure Animals mingle with the wild Non-Tested Animals??? If any disease is going to be spread, it will be from the Non-Tested animals to the Health-Certified Animals. In regards to the Genetic Purity, they are failing to address the fact that our domesticated elk originated from Yellowstone over 30 years ago, thus they are from the same Genetic Lines! If anything, ours would help improve the wild’s genetics.

The IEBA website defends their genetic purity.

Domesticated elk are tested for genetic purity to ensure that they are not hybrids, i.e. cross-bred with New Zealand Red Deer. Wild elk are not.

If the domestic elk are tested for genetic purity, one would have to assume this is recorded.

Let me return to my reasoning. If a rancher is doing their job properly, they have papers documenting the health, treatment, gene lines and all other vital information on each of their critters. My question still remains as to why with this documentation it is necessary to slaughter an escaped elk?

With proper documentation and proof that an elk farm is disease free and all animals are genetically pure and any of the animals escape, there is no sane reason to kill these animals. It would be in the financial best interest of the elk’s owner to go retrieve them. These elk are in no way endangering any wild elk. If I were an elk owner of one that got away, I would be more concerned about whether my creature was going to contract something from other wild elk before I could get it back in the corral.

On the other hand, if my elk escaped and my records show that one of my elk have tested positive to CWD or that I had been crossbreeding with red deer or the like, then I think all efforts need to be made to find that elk and capture or destroy it.

So why did Governor Risch order the elk all killed on sight that escaped from the Chief Joseph ranch? This to me is probably where the biggest problem lies. It became a power struggle combined with very poor communications among all involved groups and individuals. It is my understanding that the elk ranchers were never contacted for help in dealing with the Rex Rammell, Chief Joseph ranch elk escape. Combine all of this with a rush to react spurned on by instilling fear in the Governor from in state and out of state concerns and we have a recipe for disaster.

Ironically, it may actually be that the one group being targeted as the problem may in fact be the one we should be pointing a finger at the least – the elk farmers. Instead of everyone jumping on the bandwagon to put an end to raising elk, they should be looking at how to improve on what to do when this happens again.

First of all, the Department of Agriculture, the Elk Breeders Association, the Department of Fish and Game and the Governor’s office need to sit down and devise a system that will easily show in the case of another escape what the health and genetic status is of the animals in question. From that a plan can be made based on facts and scientific evidence not scare tactics, power struggles and personal agendas.

My contact at the Black Canyon Ranch agrees with my assessment.

Even though the Dept of AG knows it is not appropriate, F&G used their scare tactics of disease and purities to convince the Governor to make that order. The Dept of AG is forced to abide by this order, whether or not they agree with it, unfortunately. The Governor made that order before meeting with any of us elk ranchers. F&G has a lot of power, and this just shows you what can happen when we have excessive power within our Government.

The sad part of this event is that it appears the same reactions are taking place as have in other parts of the country under similar circumstances. The uninformed and those relying on the emotional fears spewed by the media and certain animal rights groups about disease and crossbreeding are rushing to judgement and demanding an end to this industry.

Elk ranches all have their place now in our society. We may not all agree with it but we’re not all farmers either. I personally like the taste of elk meat and it is my understanding that it is healthy for you.

Any farmer raising animals has to contend with disease. Wildlife biologists have to contend with disease in wild animals as well. We don’t demand that cattle ranchers be shut down because their cattle become diseased. We deal with it and we should deal with this in a sane and rational way.

*Previous Posts*

What Do Malnurished Elk Look Like?
Idaho Elk Breeders Association Opens New Website
Bull Elk Shot Inside Rex Rammell’s Ranch
Wyoming Governor Asks Idaho Governor To Ban Game Farms
Escaped Idaho Elk Shot In Wyoming
Rex Rammell Arrested
Governor Jim Risch Defends His Decision To Shoot Escaped Elk
Idaho Gubernatorial Candidates Have A Say About Elk Farming
Rammell For Governor, Ranch Sold, Elk Still Being Hunted
Wyoming Governor Freudenthal Says Interior Department Not Doing Enough About Escaped ElkIdaho’s Escaped Elk Now Getting National Attention
Idaho Elk Farmer Says All His Elk Accounted For
Idaho Governor Expands Hunt For Escaped Elk
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
Domestic Elk Crash The Gate – Escape!

Tom Remington