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Shame on Hi Ute Ranch

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The word "majestic" was used to describe elk in the recent article about the Hi Ute elk ranch near Park City. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more majestic or beautiful animal on earth than a mature bull elk. Unfortunately, much of the majesty vanishes when elk are contained and fenced like domestic cattle or treated like the docile creatures of a petting zoo. The front page photo says it all. In that image we see the co-owner of the ranch stroking a bull elk through a wire fence as if it were the family dog.

The caption that accompanies the photo is also instructive: "They're really very gentle animals." While elk are not carnivorous, it is hard to think of them as gentle if you have watched them much in the wild, especially during the fall rut. After observing bulls thrash saplings, small trees and each other on several occasions, I would describe elk as powerful but not as mild creatures like you would find in a Disney cartoon, which seems to be the image the Hi Ute Ranch would like to convey.

Of course, these "ranchers" are in the business of marketing hayrides and tourist visits, and elk are the main attraction.

If the Deseret News wishes to praise people who care for elk and elk habitat, a much better model is found on the Peaceful Valley Ranch, which is located near East Canyon reservoir. There, the Macfarlane family has been working with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to preserve and enhance habitat for free-ranging elk. The Macfarlanes and many other ranch families in Utah do a lot more for preserving the majesty of elk than any number of commercial elk ranchers.

Shame on the Hi Ute Ranch for domesticating these noble creatures, and on the Deseret News for effectively providing free advertising!

Steve Fillerup

Elk Ridge