Idaho state Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, apparently mistook a spike elk — an elk with a pair of undivided antlers — for an antlerless elk, which is not that difficult to do.
And a helicopter crew working for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game mistook four wolves for four elk, which is not an easy thing to do.
In Nielsen’s case, he shot and killed the spike elk on a hunt in Elmore County, east of Boise. Since Nielsen is 77, one must congratulate him for still being able to run around in the forest after big animals — unless of course you are the big animal. The problem is that Nielsen’s hunting permit only allowed him to shoot elk without antlers.
A spike elk can have very short spikes, and from a great distance, through brush, it can be very difficult to distinguish it from an antlerless animal. Of course, the spikes can also be a couple of feet long. We don’t know which it was in Nielsen’s case.
Still, a fish and game officer would say, “When you pull that trigger, you have to know without any doubt you have taken the right, lawful animal. You can’t gamble.”
Nielsen gambled. The elk lost. Now, Nielsen, who has pleaded not guilty, could if found guilty face a fine, a jail term and suspension of hunting privileges. The judge in his case has postponed trial to let him serve in the Legislature, perhaps thinking that was punishment enough. Judge George Hicks also told him, “I appreciate your hard work on behalf of your constituents.” Nielsen’s not likely to get the book thrown at him. More likely a leaflet.
Meanwhile, it sounds like several volumes ought to be tossed at the elk-collarers in the helicopter crew whirring around in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and their bosses. Somebody didn’t tell the crew it would be a bad idea to collar the wolves.
Ed Schriever, Idaho Department of Fish and Game deputy director, blamed the “accident” on “not clearly communicating” and promised to “refine procedures” so it doesn’t happen again.
However, the next time Idaho decides to exterminate more wolves, it will have very good idea where to find them.