Hunting ranch breakout may bring elk farming ban to Idaho

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2006:
BOISE–Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer on October 25, 2006
joined Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal in asking Idaho Governor Jim
Risch to pursue a legislative ban on hunting captive-bred elk.
“In Montana, we said it’s a bad idea to pen up elk, feed
them oats, and have fat bankers from New York City shoot them with
their heads in a grain bucket,” Schweitzer told Associated Press
writer Christopher Smith.
Risch, whose term will end in January 2007, has said he would
support the legislation that Schweitzer and Freudenthal requested.
Wrote Smith, “The two major party candidates running for Idaho
governor, Republican Representative C.L. “Butch” Otter and Democrat
Jerry Brady, have said they would sign legislation prohibiting
domestic elk businesses.”
Risch on September 7 signed an executive order decreeing the
“immediate destruction” of about 160 captive-bred elk who escaped in
August from a private hunting ranch operated by Rex Rammel, DVM, of
Ashton.
“While special hunts by state agents and the public killed 33
of the escaped elk,” along with seven wild elk found among them,
“Idaho Fish and Game biologists believe the domesticated animals have
already crossbred with wild herds,” wrote Smith. “Elk farming and
‘shooter bull’ hunting are banned in Wyoming and Montana.” The
Wyoming ban was adopted in the 1970s. The Montana voters approved a
ban in 2000. Idaho, however, has 78 elk farms and 14 penned
hunting camps, according to Associated Press.


Continued Schweitzer, “You’ve got a bad actor who’s not very
good at fixing a fence, your state agencies fined him $750,000, and
the folks supposed to represent the people of Idaho, your
legislature, said ‘Oh, let’s let him off the hook,'” by passing a
special bill in 2002 that forgave Rammel’s unpaid fines. “Now you’ve
got a problem,” Schweitzer lectured, “but it’s our problem too
because the Yellowstone Basin is interconnected.”
Rammell claimed only 12 of his animals were still at large as of
October 15. He told Smith he had sold his Chief Joseph reserve to a
California man, and had sold his remaining elk to another elk
rancher.
Officially at issue are concern that the escaped elk may
carry chronic wasting disease, may bring brucellosis endemic in
Yellowstone region wild elk into closer proximity to domestic cattle,
and may include hybrid animals carrying genes from Eurasian red deer.
Also involved in the dispute is the belief of many Yellowstone-region
hunting outfitters that captive hunts are cutting into their
declining business.
“All my elk are tested yearly for both tuberculosis and
brucellosis,” Rammell fulminated in an October 12 letter to the
Idaho Statesman. “Any elk who dies on my property, whether
naturally or by hunting, has his or her brain tested for chronic
wasting disease. Elk ranching is unpopular with a certain group of
people,” Rammell continued. “These animal rights activists believe
elk ranches are as reprehensible as raising mink in cages for fur.
These people will stop at nothing, including violating private
property rights, to gain their cause. This isn’t just about elk
ranches but American liberty.”
Rammell in late October 2006 was banned from Yellowstone
National Park for telling park rangers in August 2005 that his name
was Rex Hendricks, while rangers were investigating whether he was
guiding without a permit and unsafely storing food in known bear
habitat. In March 2006 Rammel was fined $110 for the same offence.
Rammell is also facing a misdemeanor battery charge for an
October 6 incident, and has pleaded innocent to resisting or
obstructing peace officers resulting from a September confrontation
with two sharpshooters who killed a pair of his elk.
While hunting Rammell’s elk, Idaho game officers killed a
seemingly tame elk with a seven-point rack, reportedly worth
$10,000, who turned out to belong to the Pine Mountain Ranch near
Blackfoot. Blackfoot Ranch staff said they had no idea that the elk
was loose.

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