September 29, 2022

Idaho's Escaped Elk Test Negative – Elk Ranchers Face Banning Advocates

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As predicted fear, ignorance and the biased and uneducated media has put Idaho elk ranchers into a situation where they will be fighting for their business lives. This is all as a result of escaped elk from the Rex Rammell elk ranch in eastern Idaho that occurred back in mid-August.

Fearing cross-breeding of escaped elk with wild elk and the “dumbing down” of elk genes along with the spread of disease, Governor Jim Risch ordered the immediate execution of elk in the area. The escaped elk that were killed, along with seven wild elk that got “caught in the crossfire”, were sent for testing. Rammell’s elk all tested negative for any disease as well as were proven to be genetically pure. However, the wild elk were found to have large liver flukes. I am told by Kristy Hein of the Black Canyon Elk Ranch that liver flukes are a sign of parasite infestation.

Discovering the escaped elk were disease-free is a relief to many but there are bigger challenges now facing Idaho elk ranchers. Now legislators are introducing bills to ban domestic elk ranches. It is my opinion that much of what these politicians are using for information in their rush to make a new law is nothing but the same bombardment the public gets from the media, which is riddled with lies, distortions and inaccuracies. This onslaught of uneducated information sets off a wave of fear across the country putting legitimate business owners at risk of being forced out of their livelihoods.

In Oregon, an unlikely posse of organizations are banding together to rid that state of all domestic elk farming. These groups include hunting organizations as well as the Humane Society of the U.S.

The MAD-Elk Coalition brings together groups that hold such diverse, and often conflicting, views as the Hunters Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, both adamantly pro-hunting, and the Humane Society of the U.S., one of the stated goals of which is the elimination of sport hunting in the United States.

Those groups — along with the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Oregon Wild (formerly the Oregon Natural Resources Council), the Oregon Natural Desert Association, Hells Canyon Preservation Council and the Izaak Walton League — first coalesced into the coalition to seek, and win, an importation ban on elk as domestic livestock in 2002.

It is unfortunate that hunting groups have taken up this cause. I understand the concern of the spread of disease but there are other issues at stake here. First there are guidelines that can be used in minimizing to a point of near negligible concern, the importation and spread of any disease. Second, the fear of escapes can be reduced. Third, the elk industry is a viable part of the agricultural industry in America today. There are thousands of elk farmers across America that rely on elk farming to live. We can’t just yank their lives out from under them out of unfounded fear and distortions perpetrated by the media and anti-hunting and animal rights groups. The cattle industry faces as many if not more challenges than elk farmers and we are not rushing to rid the U.S. of cattle ranching. Fourth, there are also hunting ranches that will be affected. Whether you believe that ranch hunting is ethical or not, many hunters do and the ranches serve other hunting purposes as well.

There is another issue with elk farming that needs to be addressed and that is of the elk farms that are either solely or partially used as hunting facilities. There is great debate about the ethics of hunting when it comes to ranches. I have addressed these issues many times in previous articles. This debate will rage on for centuries but let’s set that issue aside for a second and take a look at how biases influence politicians in making proposals to ban elk ranching.

Governor Jim Risch made this statement that was published by a local Fox News network in Idaho. Risch was stating that he had no regrets in making his decision to kill the escaped elk. He further goes on to tell what might be facing the elk industry in that state.

And the issue is likely far from over. He said a lot of lawmakers have voiced concerns over “shooter bull” operations, saying they weren’t aware they even existed. And that may soon put elk farms in a bad light too. “I think what’s going to happen is that there is going to be a spirited discussion in the legislature about the “shoot a bull” operations, and how far Idaho wants to go with elk and domestic animal farming,” said Risch.

A “shooter bull” operation is a term used to describe elk ranches that offer clients the opportunity to shoot trophy elk. There are two distinct differences in business operations here yet Risch refers to them as one in the same while at the same time showing what I believe to be his bias against hunting – even if it’s against ranch-style hunting.

When you put elk within the confines of a fence, they are considered domestic elk. What the farmer does within the walls of his fenced property, should be his or her own business. My question is why, as Gov. Risch is suggesting, is there a difference in the elk behind fences of “shooter bull” operations and those of strictly elk farming? He is suggesting, if I am reading his statement correctly, that elk on ranches that allow hunting, pose a bigger risk to the public and wildlife than do elk on the other kind of ranches.

This is a clear example of the ignorance of those making the laws that govern this industry. Statements like Risch makes can only lead a reader to believe that he is anti-hunting. This leaves the door wide open to the animal rights groups who are always like vultures waiting to feed on the dead meat.

The table has been set and it will now be up to the elk farming industry and the Idaho Department of Agriculture, if they are supportive of the elk industry, to go to work to educate the lawmakers and the public about their industry. They have an uphill battle on their hands in that the media does not like to report on issues like this unless it is negative and controversial.

Those opposed to elk farming will peck away at it one ranch or one incident at a time until they get what they want. No longer do we live in a free enterprise system where a man can fulfill a dream of owning his own business. Government has to control everything and with these controls come less freedom to grow and become independent. Independence means less reliance on Government which translates into less jobs in Washington. That wouldn’t be a bad thing you know.

In Oregon, those bent of stopping elk farming have figured out a way to squeeze out those ranchers who might be “grandfathered” under any new laws.

One of the two petitions to the commission calls for the phase-out of all elk ranching by the remaining permit-holders during the next five years.

Both petitions ask the seven-member commission to ban issuing or renewing any Type 1 Cervid Propagation Licenses by 2012, as well as the transfer of those licenses from current holders.

The second petition doesn’t call for a deadline, but instead uses the no-new-permits and no-transfer provisions, as a way to allow elk ranching to end with the the end of the current permits.

And it also adds a requirement that all those with elk-ranching permits be required to double-fence their perimeters with 30-feet spacing between the two fences.

Any combination of the factors — no new permits or transfers, two-layered fencing, a permit deadline or not — that leads to the end of elk ranching in Oregon and protection of wildlife from current ranch-held elk — is acceptable, Elkins said.

This goes far beyond protecting wildlife from disease.

*Previous Posts*

Idaho Governor Calls Off Elk Depredation Hunt…..Sort Of
In Response To Malnourished Elk
Rex Rammell’s Letter To The Editor
Has Government Gone Too Far? More Escaped Elk Shot
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