More on the escaped elk

Idaho Fish and Game has a news release today on the elk.

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Date: September 8, 2006
Contact: Ed Mitchell
(208) 334-3700

Governor Risch authorizes immediate harvesting of escaped elk



September 7, 2006

(208) 334-2100
BOISE – Governor Jim Risch signed an emergency Executive Order today authorizing the immediate destruction of all domestic elk that recently escaped from an elk farm in eastern Idaho.

“There is a crisis facing our elk herds in eastern Idaho. Because of the escape of domestic elk that was not reported as required by law, we now have these farm-raised elk mingling with our wild elk herds,” said Risch. The Executive Order I have signed authorizes the employees of Fish and Game and the Department of Agriculture to immediately harvest these domestic elk. The order will also allow the Fish and Game Commission to put into place emergency rules to authorize licensed hunters and private property owners to take these elk without a tag. This emergency action is being taken to protect our wild elk herds in Idaho. There is a serious risk of disease and an altered gene pool from these domestic elk and I am authorizing these activities to begin at the earliest time possible.”

Governor Risch held an emergency meeting Thursday with employees of the Fish and Game and Agriculture to develop an action plan to eradicate the escaped domestic elk.

On August 14 a complaint was filed with state agencies about some domestic elk had escaped from a private elk ranch in Fremont County. It is estimated that 160 elk had escaped through a hole in the fence. Attempts to recapture the animals have had only limited success.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has given 24 hours notice that they will adopt emergency rules that will allow licensed elk hunters and private property owners to harvest the domestic elk. The Commissioners will meet by conference call at 3 p.m. Friday.

Domestic elk are required to have two identify marks and ear tagging is the common method for marking. The identification tags from the harvested elk must be reported to the local Fish and Game office. While not required, tissue samples from the domestic elk is being requested to allow further testing of the animal.

The Department of Agriculture has oversight of elk farms in the state, but state law does not require the licensure of the facilities.







  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    Well, the governor’s action is entirely appropriate, given the circumstances, but since the horses are out of the barn, so to speak, one wonders just how effective it will be.

    A good outcome from this unfortunate event is that the state of Idaho takes legislative action to bring the elk farms and ranches under strict state regulation and heavy sanctions for their violation. However, the absolute best action would be to ban them outright, as Montana has done and as Wyoming did in 1977. I do not know how the initiative process works in Idaho, but that might be an avenue for Idaho citizens to ban game farming and ranching. Wyoming’s statutory languague, which has stood up in court, bans the private ownership of big game animals or the importation of privately owned big game animals into the state.

  2. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    ” the state of Idaho takes legislative action to bring the elk farms and ranches under strict state regulation…” there already is strict state regulation. The screw up there was when the state allowed Rummel to continue to own domestic elk once he violated the rules. Instead he was pardoned on fines by the legislature and it just seemed to go away. Thank the politicians for that part. He should have been shut down the second he violated law, then this wouldn’t have happened.
    “heavy sanctions for their violation” wasn’t carried out properly. There are far more damaging, emergency issues with Idaho’s wildlife than domestic elk. The only reason elk farming in general is under attack right now is because it’s still “new,” No one talks about pigs getting loose and infecting wild boars, for one of many examples. This basically was an easy attack for activists, and a new breeding ground for their political motives. Broken down and analized fairly, it’s really no more urgent than many other situations going on in other industries.

  3. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    I spoke on the phone personally yesterday with the Dept. of Ag, livestock health, and there were at the time of the call 70 COWS still out, and they aren’t nor were they in the forest, they’re on farm ground. Our wonderfully misinformed governor shouted out permission to kill over 160 “trophy” animals, which will only lead to shooting deaths of far more than just the domestic animals. This has been made even worse by Fish and Game in that fact alone, but you can bet they won’t have to answer for that part of things now will they…

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Erin did you happen to find out if they are Rocky Mountain Elk or are they red deer?

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    If there is strict regulation of the industry, why is it in every state or province where these farms/ranches exist, jurisdiction lies with the agriculture agency rather than the wildlife agency? It’s pretty simple to answer: wildlife agencies enforce the regulations, agricultural agencies try to boost the industry by ignoring the regulations. This is why game ranches/farms have become such disease hazards and threats to resident wildlife. That’s also why they should be banned outright.

  6. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    Do you vote Hoskins?? Then take that up with your friendly neighborhood legislators! Elk breeders don’t decide who governs us, we all do as voters. Idaho Elk Breeder’s Assn. is and has been very upset at why Rammel was “let off,” and allowed to continue owning domestic elk; that’s part of why he’s not a member and muchly disapproved of.
    RALPH: I was lucky Dr. Lawrence even got back to me as she left a message earlier Friday saying she was busy and would TRY to call back. She wasn’t as knowledgable on the situation as I think she should have been, but knew for sure that as of that day 70 COWS were still out. She didn’t say on the breeding of the animals. What I know is that Rammel at least at one time wanted to raise Red Deer (part of elk breeder’s issue with him) as is against the law. And since he hasn’t submitted proper documentation through inventory and inspection, it’s likely ayone’s guess. I’ve been making calls and finding out what I can, when I know something new I’ll post it. An elk rancher who lives in Menan said he was told weeks ago that 70-80 animals eskaped through a hole torn by a black bear, but just like what’s been published, it could be wrong too.

  7. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    Oh, and Hoskins: It would be kind of odd for Wildlife Agencies to govern what is known in the State of Idaho as livestock. Like I said, this all is done by lawmakers.

  8. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    This is from the press release from Fish and Game following Risch’s release:

    “…Sometime before August 14, an estimated 75 or more animals escaped from a commercial domestic elk farm operated by Rex Rammell ……Huffaker asked hunters to avoid adding to the problem by heading for eastern Idaho with hopes of shooting an elk.”

    Found at:

    I guess you could say F&G is doing a little, a little, damage control with more accurate and proper information. I’ll be calling the Idaho SDA and F&G as well as Id. Elk Breeder’s Assn. president tomorrow and see what I can find out about the breeding in these escapees and more. I’ll let you know Ralph, if you’re interested in what I find out.

  9. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    I just got off the phone with Dr. Lawrence with ISDA animal health. As of this morning, 8 of the domestic elk that were out were shot. 12 more were trapped to be replaced inside the farm facilities. THERE WERE AND ARE NO RED DEER ON THE RANCH NOR WERE THERE ANY CROSSBREEDS!!! This was a rumor cooked up by someone and fed to the media. So as for genetic contamination with the red deer species: no danger here. She said that fish and game is forcing an inventory on Rammels animals. Then we’ll know what he has, EXACTLY how many escaped, and were re-captured, etc. They’re working up any additional charges for Rammel and Dr. Lawrence said there is much in litigation on Rammel now, it’s been in courts litterally for years. Hoplefully with this incident it’ll kick up a gear or two and shut him down. Of course Fish and Game will test the animals killed and force Rammell to allow testing on the animals in his facility during inventory, which should clear up anything on the disease level. I am awaiting a return phone call from Steve Huffaker right now, and plan to ask wether or not ISDA was contacted to get accurate info before they got the Governor to make his press release, and how many if any wild elk have been shot during attempts to kill the domestic escaped animals.


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