Some of the domestic elk that escaped last month from an eastern Idaho shooter-bull operation have been shot and more have been rounded up.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission Friday afternoon September 8, authorized a Department of Fish and Game proposal to send seven, three-member teams of Fish and Game and Department of Agriculture employees into the field starting Saturday morning, September 9. The teams include two shooters and one spotter, with help from aerial spotters in a helicopter and fixed-wing airplane.
The commissioners also authorized Fish and Game to open a depredation hunt, should it become necessary. No depredation hunt will be in effect, however, unless the department director and the Upper Snake regional supervisor determine it necessary.
As of Monday, September 11, Fish and Game officials reported eight of the escaped, specially bred domestic elk-five cows and three calves-had been killed.
In addition Rex Rammell, owner of the Chief Joseph Idaho domestic elk operation east of Rexburg, has rounded up about a dozen animals.
Sometime before August 14, an estimated 75 or more animals, perhaps as many as 160, escaped from the commercial domestic elk operation about eight to 10 miles from the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park.
“They may be fairly well distributed by this time,” Department Director Steve Huffaker told commissioners Friday.
Thursday, September 7, Idaho Gov. James Risch issued an emergency executive order authorizing the immediate destruction of the escaped domestic animals. Friday’s commission action came in response to the governor’s order. Fish and Game is working with the Department of Agriculture, which regulates and oversees domestic cervidae operations such as Rammell’s.
The seven teams in the field are getting help from other teams, including veterinarians from both agencies, who sample the killed animals for disease and genetics. Others help salvage the meat.
The department is reluctant to shut down the already open archery-only hunt in the area, and that is one reason for the agency teams to hunt the domestic animals initially for the sake of public safety.
If it becomes necessary, Huffaker may exercise his authority to open a depredation hunt on or before October 1. Such a hunt would authorize hunters with valid Teton A and B elk tags, as well as controlled hunt permits for hunt number 2122, along with private property owners in the area, to participate.
Other hunters may sign up with the Idaho Falls Fish and Game regional office at 208-525-7290. Hunters on the list may be called if additional help is needed.
The difficulty state officials have had finding and killing a few of the domestic elk so far, indicates the difficulty hunters would face should a depredation hunt be opened.
Hunters who already have valid Teton A or B hunting tags or permits for controlled hunt 2122, who shoot a domestic elk, marked with a small metal USDA ear tag, during an open season, do not need to validate and attach their elk tag. They are not required to turn the elk over to Fish and Game, but they should report it to the department within three days.
The tags are about three-eights of an inch wide and 1 1/2 inches long. Huffaker asked hunters to avoid adding to the problem by heading for eastern Idaho with hopes of shooting an elk.