Elk hunt draws opposition in Harrison Ford's neighborhood

Monday, October 25th 2004, 9:28 am
By: News On 6

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) _ A hunt aimed at thinning an elk population that often summers around actor Harrison Ford's ranch is drawing criticism from some residents.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has asked landowners in 3 Creek Ranch, a new golf course and housing development near Ford's property in South Park, to allow hunting on their land as part of a plan to thin the herd.

``The problem is that a lot of landowners don't allow permission to hunt,'' Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke said. ``That's why this particular herd segment has grown so much.''

Gocke called the 3 Creek hunt ``really valuable to us in managing that elk herd.''

Elk living along the Snake River bottoms belong to the larger Fall Creek Herd, which numbers about 5,100 and exceeds the state's population objective of 4,400 animals.

Landowners in the area agree the number of elk has more than doubled since the 1980s and now numbers around 300. But many property owners don't want the elk to be shot.

Ford, one of the largest landowners in the area, has created a private elk refuge of sorts with elk summering on his property.

``Ford doesn't want any hunting to take place on his property,'' said John Kelly, who manages the ranch for the actor. ``He told me that if I caught anyone to turn them in.''

Kelly put up signs warning would-be hunters along the border between 3 Creek and the Ford property, he said.

Another 3 Creek neighbor, Kirby Williams, sees both sides.

``I support thinning the herd out. It's definitely gotten out of control,'' Williams said. ``The foraging they do is quite destructive to replacing the cottonwoods and the aspens. We have noticed that here.''

Protecting cottonwood habitat along the river is one reason for the hunt, Gocke said. But while Williams supports 3 Creek's decision to allow hunting, he too does not want hunters on his property.

``We love the elk,'' he said. ``We don't want anybody shooting on our ranch. But if other people are willing to put up with that then that's fine with us.''

Game and Fish officials also are concerned about elk mingling with cattle because of the potential for transmitting diseases and because elk may damage stored hay.