Minnesota elk evade government sharpshooters

Smarter than an elk?

Smarter than an elk?

You want gangster government? Let's talk about the $37,000 hit job ordered up by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on a herd of big but maybe-not-so-dumb elk roaming the countryside Up North in Kittson County.

DNR hired its hit men -- sharpshooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- to kill the hapless ungulates because they had the bad judgment to eat alfalfa destined for the bellies of beef cattle.

But who can blame them? Evidently, they got an early taste of cushy living because they were raised on a game farm.

Four of the elk have been shot. Now, if only the sharpshooters could actually find the rest.

The game plan was to bait a specific location, draw all the elk together and then gun them down. But it hasn't worked out that way. It turns out the elk have plenty of tasty natural grazing, thanks to an unusually warm spring. Bait? Who needs bait?

The good news -- good news if you're cheering for the elk, anyway -- is that the herd may evade obliteration.

"We can haze them. We can loft cracker shells, you can chase them around, and that doesn't seem to bother them too much," DNR's Dennis Simon told AgWeek. "But as soon as you drop an animal out of that herd, they change their behavior."

The contract on the elk is up on April 30, after which time DNR says will leave them alone.