Exasperation builds over escaped elk

Exasperation builds over escaped elk. Owner clashes with hunter, landowner as neighbors criticize condition of herd and delays in rounding up escapees. By Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman.







  1. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    Office of President
    Cataldo, ID 83810

    Press Release: September 15, 2006

    RE: Domestic elk escape in Southeast Idaho from Chief Joseph Ranch

    The Idaho Elk Breeders Association and the North American Elk Breeders regret the recent unfortunate incident at the Chief Joseph Elk Ranch in Southeast Idaho.

    Elk breeders throughout North America welcome appropriate regulation of the industry and desire prompt enforcement of those regulations where indicated. All members of IEBA must be in good standing with the rules and regulations, which govern the industry. Failure to comply with state regulations for domestic cervidae, as overseen by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, disallows membership in that organization. The rancher in question is not a member of IEBA.

    Both associations, IEBA and NAEBA, while not defending any alleged violation of current regulations is concerned that inaccurate information has been conveyed regarding this event which must be corrected to properly inform the public:

    1) Mandatory testing of all cervidae for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) can only be accomplished post mortem, thus the ISDA is not able to test live animals for CWD. There are live animal tests for Brucellosis and Tuberculosis.
    2) Idaho law requires two types of official identification, at least one of which must be visible from one hundred fifty feet (not 150 yards as earlier reported). There is no requirement for a “blaze orange” ear tag.
    3) Elk are readily adaptable to many types of situations and do not charge fences unless being pursued by a predator or otherwise frightened. Herd animals generally stay within a specific herd range or home ground thus pose little risk of escape normally.
    4) The animals in question or their ancestry were tested for genetic purity by a qualified laboratory and declared pure elk, as it is illegal to propagate red deer in the state of Idaho.
    5) We understand that a serious attempt to recapture the escaped animals has been made and many have been recovered or killed as of Sept. 15, 2006.

    IEBA and NAEBA strongly support Governor Risch’s Emergency Order to depopulate the domestic elk that have not been recaptured and will be working with Gov. Risch, the Idaho legislature and relevant state agencies to review the need for additional regulatory authority to enable the ISDA to prevent further similar occurrences.

    In contrast to domestic livestock, wild elk herds are largely unchecked for disease (less than 1% of the wild elk population in Idaho was tested for CWD in 2005). The state of Wyoming, which has the highest incidence of CWD in wild populations of deer and elk, has not allowed domestic elk farming since 1974. Domestic elk herds in Idaho face a mandatory 100% testing for CWD and most ranches have been under this regulation for 8 years. This program is overseen by the ISDA, which also performs an annual inventory of all animals.

    While Idaho unfortunately has documented the transmission of brucellosis to domestic cattle from wild elk in eastern regions of the state, there has never been a reported case of brucellosis, tuberculosis or CWD in a domestic elk herd in the entire state.

    Gary Queen – President IEBA
    Ted Winters – President NAEBA

    The industry, both in Idaho and nationally, strongly support the Governor’s action in response to the Rammell situation and will work with the governor’s office, the legislature and Department of Agriculture to shore up existing regulations to provide adequate authority for the Department to assure compliance or eliminate uncooperative producers in the future. The industry will seek the opportunity for input in that process.

    Traditional opposition to elk ranching is based primarily upon misinformation and a “chicken little” mentality. Examples follow:

    FALSE: God made elk wild; therefore, they should remain wild.

    TRUTH: God made all animals wild. Man has chosen to put them to their intended use and has domesticated many species for food, fiber and as beasts of burden.

    FALSE: Domestic animals are all sick and threaten the health of wild herds.

    TRUTH: There has never been a documented case of brucellosis, tuberculosis or chronic wasting disease reported in domestic elk in Idaho, notwithstanding close surveillance by ISDA and in specific animal health programs, USDA.

    To the contrary, the presence of brucellosis in wild elk in eastern Idaho is well documented and has been a true threat to Idaho’s cattle industry brucellosis-free status for many years. In the recent past, at least two cattle herds were found to have brucellosis. In at least one of those cases (Albertson, which was in close geographical proximity to the current debacle) the strain of brucellosis was identified as coming directly from wild elk.

    The domestic elk industry has always been proactive in seeking animal health programs for diseases of concern and has lobbied for such programs both in the Idaho legislature and in Congress; i.e. current tuberculosis and CWD eradication programs, which, to some degree, owe their existence to the domestic elk industry.

    FALSE: Domestic elk pose a threat to the genetics of wild elk.

    TRUTH: Idaho only allows the raising of pure elk. Red deer and hybrids are prohibited by statute. There is currently no evidence that Rammell’s animals are anything other than pure elk. There is no basis for the assertion that they pose a threat to the genetic pool of wild elk. There is nothing inferior about the genetics of domestic elk. The genetic makeup of thousands of domestic elk in the United States comes directly from wild elk which were removed from Yellowstone Park in an effort to limit the size of that herd.

    FALSE: Recent events are indicative of the practices of all elk producers.

    TRUTH: The vast majority of elk producers in Idaho and elsewhere, strive diligently to manage compliant operations and to protect the health of their herds and their substantial investments in those herds. It is truly suicidal to fail to adhere to the regulations and in particular the relevant animal health programs.

  2. Elizabeth Parker Avatar
    Elizabeth Parker


    Thanks for posting the information. I am curious if you are an elk rancher or someone who offers canned elk hunts?


  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Erin has said a number of times in this forum that he is an elk breeder, but does not offer canned elk hunts.

  4. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    …and is a SHE…


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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