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Lonney Broadus, Bear River City: “And I don’t like to see animals suffer and die that slow, painful death.”
The deaths of two bull elk tangled together while clashing antlers in a mating ritual are stirring strong feelings. Rescuers were forced to stand by for three days as the elk slowly died because a rancher wouldn't allow them on his property.
This is a case where private property rights prevailed. The rancher won the argument on legal grounds and two trophy elk paid a price, dying a slow death.
Two Utah hunters crossed the state line into Nevada last week to observe elk. On video they captured a rare event: two elk, antlers interlocked. When they got closer, they realized both were alive. Instead of bugling, the elk could be heard almost pleading.
The hunter who caught it on tape says he’s never seen anything like it before.
Lonney Broadus: “At first I thought, you know, this is a magnificent sight. This is once in a lifetime. Then you’re going, ‘Oh man, if they don’t get undone, they’re gonna die.’”
Steve Braegger: “So our main objective was to try to find some help and free them.”
They called Nevada wildlife officials who came to the scene the next morning; it's on a private ranch, a mile west of Utah, just south of Idaho. But the rescuers were forced to stand by for three days while the elk died. Rancher Bud Bedke wouldn't allow them to cross his property line.
Lonney Broadus: “It would be hard to watch. It would be hard to sit there and watch that for three days.”
Steve Braegger: “And it just makes you sick that those animals laid there for three or four days suffering.”
According to Nevada wildlife officials, the rancher has a long-standing grievance with the way all three states manage their elk herds. And he’s consistently complained about the elk tearing down his fences and letting his cattle run loose.”
Lonney Broadus: “They do cause him a hardship or a loss of income. But to let this happen is unacceptable.”
While the elk were still alive, Nevada officials worked late into the night trying to find a legal pretext for saving them. But property rights trumped the dying elk.
Lonney Broadus: “I’m sick. If I’d known it was going to turn out like this, I’d have done something completely different.”
We offered rancher Bud Bedke a chance to talk, but he didn't return our calls.
Wildlife officials were extremely upset over what happened. They were close enough on a public road to shoot the elk and put them out of their misery. But they concluded they couldn't legally do that either.