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Montana Owes For Seized Elk Jury Says State Failed To Get Market Price When Selling Elk

SUNDAY, MAY 19, 1996

The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks owes Calvin Greenup $24,000 for seizing his elk last spring but failing to sell them at a reasonable price, a jury decided Thursday.

It was an ironic twist to a case in which the state tried to also recoup $2,700 of the $16,700 it spent on security, boarding and fencing to house and feed the elk after Greenup refused to get a $50 game farm license.

“Government agents and agencies must be held accountable too - as well as citizens,” said Greenup, who is known for his anti-government sentiment.

“While Cal made some mistakes and did some things wrong, I think it sends a message to government agencies that they don’t have a blank check to expend and do whatever they want,” said Greenup’s attorney, John Smith of Missoula.

On April 13, 1995, the department seized 10 elk owned by Greenup after he refused to buy a game farm license in 1994 and 1995. Three of the elk died. The remaining seven, along with two new calves, were sold for $9,051.

The department then deducted that amount from the $16,000 in costs and also credited Greenup with $1,700 each for the three elk that died, leaving the $2,700 deficit to be recovered.

The jury, however, said the elk that were sold were really worth $23,400 and the value of the three elk that died was $14,150, for a total of $37,550. Jurors reduced the state’s claimed expenses from $16,700 to $13,500 for the proposed final $24,000 reimbursement figure.

Greenup’s attorneys argued the department did not pursue all viable options, including out-of-state markets, when selling the elk.

In her closing arguments, Wildlife Department Attorney Bridgitt Erickson told jurors Greenup had from December 1993 to April 1995 to sell his elk and get that $45,000 figure.

She argued Greenup sacrificed the full value of his elk when he refused to buy a $50 game farm license.

“It’s not fair, it’s not just, when the people of Montana have to pay him $45,000 because he decided not to sell his elk,” she said.

The jury deliberated for two hours before also deciding that Greenup should receive all the materials and equipment he was charged for as part of the seizure, including 8-by-10-foot steel panels the agency used to create lodging for the elk, a drill, a horse feeder, buckets and feed pans.

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