Rancher shoots for test case

  Brucellosis-infected elk are a major threat to Wyoming's economy, says Meeteetse-area rancher Martin Thomas. Serious enough, he will argue in court, to warrant the assault-rifle attack that left nine elk dead and lots of wildlife-management questions unanswered (HCN, 3/3/97).

On March 31, Thomas pleaded not guilty to charges that he illegally gunned down elk near his ranch. But he also says the attack was warranted to protect his cattle against brucellosis infection. His defense maintains that brucellosis, if transmitted to livestock, could cause other states to restrict imports from Wyoming and maim both the beef industry and state economy. Thomas says the state has neglected its responsibility to control wildlife, and now elk populations compete with livestock for rangeland.

Killing game out of season and without a permit is illegal, but that doesn't mean Martin will be convicted.

Says Alan Christianson of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, "Property rights and private property concerns carry a lot of weight in the Western courts."

- Emily Miller

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