The Crow Tribe has launched a plan to capture 550 wild elk on its reservation in the Bighorn Mountains of Montana. It's the beginning of the tribe's foray into game farming, but it is also sure to mark the beginning of a bitter battle over publicly owned wildlife.
"It is a spooky proposal, that's
for sure," says Harry Harju, of the Wyoming Game and Fish
Department. "It's just a plan to steal the public's wildlife, and
it is illegal."
The elk that winter on the Crow
Reservation in south-central Montana spend the summer months in
Wyoming, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department estimates that
the herd contains about 1,500 elk.
however, puts that number at 5,000. In addition to this fall's
capture operation, the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune reports that the
plan also calls for the capture of at least 330 elk per year over
the next 10 years.
Two companies based in West
Jordan, Utah, would capture the elk and finance and manage the
tribe's game farm. James Innes, owner of both companies, Wildlife
Resource Management and Helicopter Wildlife Management, says the
project is entirely legal.
"Provided they have a
management plan, the Crows can do whatever they want with their
elk," Innes says. "The tribe has sovereign immunity, and this whole
plan hinges on that fact. Elk ranching is just going to get bigger
and bigger throughout the country, and the Indians are in a good
position to capitalize on that. This is no different than
exploiting any other resources they might have, like water or