August 14, 2018

Concern Over Disease on Domestic Elk Ranches

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It amazes me the depth of ignorance and the breadth of bad information that easily become emotionally intoxicating talking points when discussing animals and disease and the role of government. Anyone who has read my work understands I have little good regard for government but I have less regard for environmental, non governmental groups that love to play god, while forcing some to play by different rules than others.

In a recent opinion piece found in the Idaho Statesman, “GUEST OPINION CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE Idaho is just not doing right by its wildlife,” by John Caywood, all this is brought to the surface.

Several years ago I worked with the Idaho Elk Breeders to help educate and get the word out about that industry and to thwart the efforts of some, led mostly by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) and special interest groups, to shut down the domestic elk industry because of trumped up charges of irresponsible ranchers and the threat of spreading disease. It appears some of the same players are back at it again using emotional clap trap to push their agendas in a misaligned direction.

Please understand that those claiming there is a threat about the spread of disease wrongly are telling people that the threat comes from domestic elk spreading disease from the source of the ranch out into the rest of the world. How ignorantly absurd and flat out wrong!

Domestic elk ranches in Idaho have never had one reported case of chronic wasting disease, as seems to be the biggest concern of the letter writer, and from the many elk ranchers I have met and communicated with over the years, they tell me they fear that their animals will contract diseases from infected wildlife, of which the Idaho Department of Fish and Game seems to be deaf and dumb about.

An honest look into the history of chronic wasting disease will show that it just doesn’t appear on a ranch out of the blue. The State of Idaho has restrictions on the importation of livestock from states where disease is in existence. The actual threat that exists in this case is that the government-cared-for wildlife will infect a domestic cervid industry that has for years proven themselves to be responsible, dedicated and disease free. It’s absurd to think elk behind fences are threatening the wild deer, elk and moose of the state of Idaho.

But if we look at who’s making the noise over this change in regulations, it’s the same players as always. The writer evokes the virtues of the Idaho Sportsman’s Caucus Advisory Council (ISCAC), which historically has been a mish-mish of different people with a gripe claiming the several thousands of members on their side that don’t really exist. In addition, ISCAC has always been the mouthpiece for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and, once again, historically IDFG has opposed every aspect of the Idaho elk ranching industry, especially the hunting ranches.

The domestic elk industry in Idaho has an immense task on their hands keeping their livestock protected from the diseases present in the wild ungulate and other wildlife populations. Chronic wasting disease has been in Idaho for several years unknown by most and it didn’t get there from the elk ranchers inventing the disease but was imported into the state via carcasses of wild game.

If there is so much concern about disease in wild game animals coming from the elk industry, consider a few simple facts. One, elk ranchers are not interested in allowing disease into their businesses. Why would they? It’s their livelihood. There is no reason they and the Department of Agriculture would reduce the amount of disease testing, if it would threaten the elk industry. Two, they have proven that they run a clean ship, not because they have been testing every elk killed for disease for the past 15 plus years but because they have done everything right to protect their livestock from the disease on the outside of the fences in addition to following the import regulations. In short, they know what needs to be done. Third, wolves are known carries of well over 30 diseases, many of them harmful to humans as well as livestock. It is a known fact that at least 2/3rds of all wild wolves in Idaho contain the Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm that can be fatal to humans and create Hydatid cysts in the organs of elk. There is at least one well-documented case of human hydatidosis in Idaho. Wolves also spread Neospora caninum, which can cause abortions and neonatal mortality in livestock. All of this spread from outside the elk ranches.

And with all of this, IDFG still denies that there is any risk of disease from wolves and continue to place their hypocritical focus on the elk industry.

Maybe it’s time that the State of Idaho is required to test every one of their wild animals before being allowed to get near an elk ranch.

Tom Remington
Largo, Florida and Bethel, Maine

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