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Elk farm owner arrested

John Miller Associated Press

BOISE – An eastern Idaho man whose farm-raised elk escaped in August near Yellowstone National Park has been arrested after a confrontation with state Department of Fish and Game officials who were hunting the wayward animals on nearby private property.

Rex Rammell was arrested Friday morning by Fremont County sheriff’s deputies for investigation of obstruction, the Sheriff’s Office confirmed. He was later released on a $300 bond, an official there said.

Rammell was arrested after he allegedly sat on a domesticated elk that had been killed by state officers near Rexburg. He refused to get off the animal when ordered to do so by law enforcement agents, Fish and Game officials said.

For weeks, state and private hunters have been on the trail of elk that remain at large, from a group of up to 160 animals that escaped from Rammell’s private Chief Joseph hunting preserve near the Idaho-Wyoming border. Earlier this month, Gov. Jim Risch signed off on an emergency hunt to kill the animals, to prevent them from breeding with wild elk or spreading possible disease.

“Emotions are running high, and our officers are doing everything they can to carry out the governor’s order,” Jim Unsworth, Fish and Game’s wildlife bureau chief, told the Associated Press. “We’re just being careful. Our guys are certainly not trying to pick fights. Our guys are just trying to eliminate those animals.”

Rammell, who was forgiven about $750,000 in fines by the Idaho Legislature three years ago for not properly tagging his farm-bred elk, didn’t immediately return phone calls from the AP.

So far, 32 of his domesticated elk have been killed, including one in neighboring Wyoming that’s believed to have come from Rammell’s herd, Unsworth said.

Rammell, a veterinarian who has made a career of breeding trophy bull elk for wealthy hunters who pay up to $6,000 to kill them at his “shooter-bull” operation, has accused Risch and other Idaho officials of heavy-handed tactics in what he views as a private property fight. He says his elk are genetically superior to Yellowstone elk and are disease free.

Four officers, including two from Fish and Game and two from the state Department of Agriculture, which oversees elk-breeding operations, were hunting the escaped animals on private land near Rammell’s preserve on Friday morning, Unsworth said.

They killed three elk and wounded a fourth.

Rammell then confronted the officers, and an argument ensued, Unsworth said.

After Rammell left, Fish and Game officers caught up with the wounded elk and killed it.

They also alerted the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office about the verbal confrontation with the elk breeder.

Rammell then returned and sat on the dead elk – and refused to get up when ordered to do so.

“Rex Rammell was arrested without incident for obstructing an Idaho Fish and Game officer in the course of his duty,” Fremont County Sheriff Ralph Davis said in a statement. “The officer was carrying out the governor’s orders to destroy any of Rammell’s elk that are still at large.”

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