It is hard to believe that an organization committed to Fair Chase hunting, wide-scale habitat improvement and restoration of large game animal diversity would in any way associate itself with the eradication of elk, an indigenous game species. But that is the reality of the actions of the Texas Bighorn Society, an organization which Circle Ranch has supported for many years.
Big Horn Sheep are found with Elk, as pictured below, in every part of their range in the United States
In March 2010 I became aware that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department had a written policy to eradicate all elk on every property managed by itself in far-West Texas. The rationale for these eradications is that elk are competitive with sheep and harm sheep habitat. Sheep releases, the thinking goes, must be preceded by cleansing of all “exotics,” including elk. This is erroneous wildlife thinking in at least 3 ways: (1) Bighorn sheep are found alongside elk in at least 12 American states; (2) elk are native to West Texas; and, (3) sheep habitat is improved by animal diversity and harmed by animal removals. I learned that the Texas Bighorn Society was funding the “exotic” eradication flights.
I do not know how much money TBS has given to this purpose, but I understand that 1,500 aoudad have been shot with automatic weapons from helicopters at a cost rumored to exceed $1 million.
I met with the Texas Bighorn Society Board on March 20, 2010.Specifically, I asked the TBS Board to urge the Department to manage elk not eradicate elk, and secondly, to specify that funds used for aoudad helicopter eradications missions not be used for these elk eradications.The directors answered me on April 13, 2010 saying that they would consider my request at their July meeting. On July 19, 2010 I received the attached letter from the Bighorn Society.
They stated that the Department had changed its policy from “eradication” to “management and control.”In his July 19th letter, Mr. Joseph states that the Bighorn Society does not want to restrict the Department from conducting its elk eliminations in the most “efficient” way possible.
On August 26, 2010 I wrote Mr. Joseph and his board, and pointed out that the “change” of Department policy from eradication to management is in reality a change of words, not a change of policy.
The letter directs Mr. Joseph to hyperlinks wherein the management plans of every West Texas property are to be found, and it also quotes each of the plans. The operative language is that “elk on the WMA will be lethally removed, and controlled at the lowest number possible.” The lowest possible number is “zero.”It is my opinion that Mr. Joseph already knew this.
I also discussed with Mr. Joseph the ethical dilemma for TBS, an organization dedicated to Fair Chase hunting, caused by sanctioning the use of automatic weapons from helicopters to reduce the numbers of elk, a native game animal, to as-close-as-possible-to zero!
And finally, I discussed with the Texas Bighorn Society board, which after all is the private steward of the Texas Desert Bighorn Sheep program, the discrepancies and serious questions about the allocation of public permits to private landowners, and the lack of transparency in the way that permits are awarded.The TBS Board has declined to discuss these matters.
This exchange is reproduced below and should be read from the bottom up.