The Oregon Legislature moved closer Thursday to clamping down on the "canned hunting" of captive exotic animals on closed game reserves...
SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Legislature moved closer Thursday to clamping down on the “canned hunting” of captive exotic animals on closed game reserves.
The Senate voted 22-5 for a bill to outlaw the hunting of such animals as ibex and Russian boars on reserves.
The Supreme Court ruled in November against the hunting of captive nonindigenous 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.
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Deckert said hunting groups have derided the practice as unsportsmanlike.
But several lawmakers disagreed with that.
“As a member of hunting groups, I can tell you this very operation has been written about in the hunting magazines of the Oregon hunters associations and what a great hunting experience it is,” said Sen. Roger Beyer, R-Molalla.
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 regulates 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Clover Creek Ranch 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.