The Oregon Legislature moved closer Thursday to clamping down on the canned hunting of captive, exotic animals. The Senate voted 22-5 for...

Share story

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Legislature moved closer Thursday to clamping down on the canned hunting of captive, exotic animals.

The Senate voted 22-5 for a bill to outlaw the hunting of such animals as Ibex goats and Russian boars on closed game reserves.

The Supreme Court ruled in November against the hunting of captive, non-indigenous deer, but didn’t rule on more exotic species. That led to the bill, which now goes to the House.

“These are trophy hunting facilities that offer the customers the opportunity to kill exotic or game animals that are trapped within enclosures, regardless of their size, with really no chance to escape, and they are shot at a close range,” said Sen. Ryan Deckert, D-Beaverton, chief sponsor.

Deckert said that hunting groups have derided the practice as unsportsmanlike.

But several lawmakers disagreed with that.

In 1999 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife ruled that canned hunting was illegal. In 2001 officers brought charges against Clark Couch, owner of Clover Creek Ranch, a 2,200-acre game reserve northeast of Madras.

The lower courts dismissed the charges on the grounds that the non-native, exotic species were not under the control of the department, which is responsible for regulating wildlife.

The department argued that exotic game animals present a threat to native wildlife through the spread of disease. The case eventually went before the state Supreme Court, which ruled that canned hunting of exotic deer is illegal but did not issue a decision on other non-native animals.

“If you have species that are classified as livestock that can escape and manage to establish themselves in the wild, yes, it can pose a definite threat to native wildlife and habitats,” said Ron Anglin, head of the Fish and Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Division.

Couch said in an interview that in the 50 years the game ranch has operated the only animals that have escaped were a few elk, after hunters cut a hole in the fence so they could shoot them off the ranch’s property.

“They are essentially taking away the right of someone to kill an animal on their own property,” Clark said.

Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day said the bill was aimed at increasing control over elk ranchers, who raise the animals for meat and hides and sometimes allow hunters to kill them for a fee.

“We do this because making a living on a ranch in Eastern Oregon or elsewhere is difficult — sometimes the cattle markets don’t produce as much as the pelt markets do,” Ferrioli said.

But supporters said the bill was not aimed at ranchers who raise elk for commercial purposes. Kelly Peterson, program manager for the Oregon chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, said the new bill was “clear and concise on an unethical practice.”

“It bans canned hunts in Oregon once and for all,” said Peterson.

Clover Creek Ranch remains open and advertises a wide variety of exotic species such as Hawaiian black sheep, Russian boars and water buffalo. Hunters typically pay $500 to $2,000 to shoot the captive animals.

Nineteen states have full or partial bans on canned hunting, according to the Humane Society.