More than 100 domestic elk escape in Idaho near Yellowstone

People have been fearing this for a long time. Hopefully the domestic elk have no disease.

The politics of the whole is really disgusting, but perhaps the outcome will be to put strong controls on these private elk “hunting” reserves, and maybe like the good folks in Montana did, shut them down. They are an affront to real hunters, and they are proliferating in Idaho, giving us a bad name.

So this guy who owned the elk farm, Rex Rummell, continually defied Idaho’s Dept of Agriculture who wanted to inspect his elk for disease, including the dread chronic wasting disease. He defied them and ran to his buddies in the state legislature to get his past fines rescinded. After he got what he wanted, it looks like he continued to defy the law, and he didn’t even report the escape of the elk.

These domestic elk are supposed to have tags to readily identify them, but, of course, they don’t. Perhaps hunters will kill all of them in the upcoming season because they are likely to be unwary elk.

Read the AP article.







  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    We’ve learned that this happens a good deal more than the press relates; although the number of farmed elk that escaped from Rex Rummel’s place is remarkable. It will be interesting to see if Rex runs to the Idaho legislature for reimbursement on his loss as a consequence of his own negligence.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It will be interesting. Folks in Eastern Idaho are catching onto these elk “hunting” farms.

    Sports figure Rulon Jones recently fenced off a ranch in the Blackfoot Mountains, NE of Pocatello for a “shooter [elk] bull” place. He got extremely negative coverage from the Idaho State Journal on the fact that native Idaho wildlife inside the fence would be killed, and the hunting ethics (or rather the lack of them in such a place).

    For more information see “Bad Ideas in Idaho” in Goat, the High Country News blog.

    One group that didn’t have anything to say about it was Idaho’s version of “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.” Perhaps they are the same kind of sellouts to private hunting, and elk feedlots as their counterparts in Wyoming.

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    One thing that is clear from the activities of SFW-Wyoming is that it is a front organization for the livestock and outfitting industries to advocate privatization and further commercialization of publicly owned wildlife, such as through the directed allocation of hunting licenses to landowners and outfitters for sale on the open market, called “set-aside” licenses, which is still illegal in Wyoming due to hunter opposition. Such licenses are extremely lucrative and landowners and outfitters haven’t ceased efforts to legalize them in Wyoming.

    I have yet to see SFW take any position in opposition to the various policy demands on wildlife of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, such as feeding elk or giving landowners private property rights in big game animals. Every meeting I have attended regarding hunting or wildlife, you see SFW and the WSGA reps sitting together. They work hand and glove.

    SFW is not a true hunting organization, but it has suckered in a lot of hunter membership through its anti-predator stance.

  4. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    Domestic elk are NOT wildlife, for starters Ralph. Rex Rummell is a disgrace to elk breeders. He has defied rules, etc. and is not on the up and up in any way with any association. Elk breeders who heed the rules and regs set by USDA test for brucellosis, Tuberculosis, and test each and every animal that dies for CWD. No known domestic elk in Idaho has tested positive in recent years. If this man were a legitimate, law abiding rancher, it could be said that there is little to no chance for disease from them. Where this guy is the way he is, who knows. If only people could realize this for what it is and know the odds and facts for what they are in this individual situation…

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Erin. as an elk breeder yourself, I’m glad you weighed in on the matter.

    Don’t you think elk breeders would do well to make sure this guy doesn’t get a legislative pardon again?

    I do think that whatever you call them, concentrations of elk are susceptible to disease. Cattle, sheep and goats have been, and have been for thousands of years.

    Domestication of a new species, in this case elk, would confont similair problems, I think, unless there is something truly unusual about elk.

  6. Katie LaSalle-Lowery Avatar
    Katie LaSalle-Lowery

    quote: “To be honest with you, this is just a rotten piece of luck for Mr. Rummell,” Lawrence said.

    And worse “luck” for ID, WY, MT and YNP.

    quote “Idaho code releases individual hunters and the state from financial or legal liability if a domestic animal that has been loose for more than seven days is mistakenly killed.

    Still, whether Rummell decides to sue confused hunters for compensation is anyone’s guess, Huffaker said. Rummell did not return calls from The Associated Press on Wednesday.”

    I’d love to see him try to sue a hunter that shoots one of his “elk” mistaking it for a wild one. What judge or jury in the west would ever find in his favor?

    I hope every last one of them becomes a trophy this season.


  7. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    Idaho Elk Breeders Assn. has made it a point to have our representatives at the state house keep watch, yes. We can only do so much. We’ve made it known we don’t approve or associate with what Rex Rammel has done and is doing. As for disease, like I’ve reiterrated over and over, we do all the testing and prevention possible to prevent it. We are just as concerned about wild disease coming in as you are about domestic-borne disease getting out. We are very proud of our accreditations and disease free statuses; so much so that it is a vital part of buying and selling between elk breeders. Our farm, like many, require the highest possible status for animals we may purchase, as we’d lose our status if we were to buy an animal from a farm with lower accreditation than our own. Many other states have or have had inferior policies on this, and Idaho Elk Breeders pride ourselves on our requirements in this area. Each individual breeder has his own reasons for getting into the industry and run our farms in different areas. We only breed and raise animals, for instatnce; others run shooter animals on hunting ranches. Each individual case is different, which is why it can be irritating that it’s all summed up as one way of being- shooting elk behind fences- that’s not always the case and there’s so much more to hunting ranches that that. As for legislative action, we’d all do well to be sure we know where candidates stand on these areas that concern us before we vote, just like everything else.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan