Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said Tuesday that former Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Blake Fischer’s hunting photos “tainted” Idaho’s reputation as they drew criticism from around the world.
Fischer resigned Monday at Otter’s request — three days after the Idaho Statesman first reported that several former Fish and Game commissioners disapproved of Fischer’s photos.
“We’d like to get this behind us,” Otter said, “because this is not us.”
Fischer emailed more than 100 friends and colleagues last month with pictures and descriptions from the hunting kills he and his wife made on a trip to Namibia. The first photo has been the focus of many — an image of Fischer smiling behind four baboons he shot, including a juvenile. He called the animals a “family of baboons” in his email.
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Otter spoke to reporters after a Tuesday meeting of the state Land Board. He called the photos Fischer shared “distasteful.” The photos were the primary reason he asked for Fischer’s resignation, he said. Otter previously cited Fischer’s failure to “exercise good judgment” for his decision.
Otter had been told about the photo of the baboons before he saw it, which affected his reaction to it, he said.
“Probably if I had seen (the photos) for the first time without any prior knowledge, I suspect I would have had a turned stomach as a result of that,” he said.
Otter didn’t speak to Fischer directly, he said. That communication was handled by Otter’s staff.
Fischer emphasized the legality of his actions in an interview with the Statesman before the photos became public. He made the same point with the governor’s staff, Otter said.
“All that was legal,” Otter said, “it was just distasteful.
“... The hunting and fishing and gathering in Idaho — obviously it’s different in other places, different species. But I think the exposé that ended up from his ... emailing everyone is unacceptable, especially with those kinds of pictures.”
Otter said he hasn’t asked the other six Fish and Game commissioners if they have hunted in Africa, but he expects them to give him a heads-up if they have.
He drew a line between Fischer’s trip with his wife, on which they killed at least 14 animals including a giraffe and leopard, and the hunting that is a traditional part of Idaho’s culture.
“I’m 76 years old and I’ve hunted and fished all my life, practically, and so have all my family,” Otter said. “... We were meat hunters. When we fished, we ate the fish that we caught and, with the exception of maybe varmints, we ate whatever we shot, and that’s why we were hunting and fishing — besides the tradition that you enjoy.”
Otter is accepting applications for the opening on the Fish and Game Commission representing Southwest Idaho. Applications can be submitted through gov.idaho.gov.
Attempts to reach Fischer for comment since his resignation have been unsuccessful.