Idaho Fish and Game official draws heat for posing with animals he killed on African safari

By David Montero

Los Angeles Times

The photo shows Blake Fischer in a crouched position —smiling and posing with dead baboons he hunted while on safari in Africa.

But that picture has now sparked calls for Fischer, an Idaho Fish and Game commissioner, to resign amid protests on social media from animal rights activists, some hunters and even a few former commissioners.

“RED ALERT! ACTION! Commission member Blake Fischer killed an entire family of baboons & babies,” wrote a Twitter account identified as Warrior Activist.

The story of the safari, first reported by the Idaho Statesman on Friday, grew into a social media storm over the weekend as people passed along images of the commissioner posing with the baboons or standing with one foot on the neck of a giraffe. The photos, the Statesman and local television station KBOI said, were contained in an email he shared with about 100 people.

Fischer was first appointed to the seven-member commission in 2014 and was reappointed this year, though he must be approved by the Idaho Senate when the Legislature convenes in January. Calls to his office in Nampa were directed to Gov. Butch Otter’s office. An email request from the Los Angeles Times to speak with Fischer was not immediately returned.

Jon Hanian, spokesman for the governor, said in an email to the Times on Monday that Otter was aware of the controversy. He said since the Statesman article was published, the governor’s office had received about 700 emails and 200 phone calls as of Monday morning.

“It is fair to say the governor is concerned and our office is actively looking into this situation regarding one of our Fish and Game commissioners,” he wrote. “We are in the middle of that process and still gathering all the pertinent facts.”

According to the Statesman, which obtained the emails under a public records request, Fischer reportedly bragged about the animals he killed during a safari in Namibia last month.

Fischer said in his email that he and his wife shot at least 14 animals, including a waterbuck, an impala, a leopard and a sable antelope, the Statesman said.

“So I shot a whole family of baboons,” Fischer wrote below a photo of him smiling while posing with the four dead baboons. “I think she got the idea quick.”

He told the Statesman he was told which species he could hunt and that there were fees attached to some animals: “Baboons are free … I get it —they’re a weird animal. It’s a primate, not a deer.”

Fischer reportedly was surprised by the reaction and told the paper that one of his colleagues on the commission was upset by the pictures.

“I didn’t do anything illegal. I didn’t do anything unethical. I didn’t do anything immoral,” Fischer said. ” … I look at the way Idaho’s Fish and Game statute says we’re supposed to manage all animals for Idaho, and any surplus of animals we have we manage through hunting, fishing and trapping. Africa does the same thing.”

One former commissioner, Fred Trevey, emailed Fisher and asked him to resign, according to the Statesman, “to shield the commission as an institution and hunting as a legitimate tool of wildlife management from the harm that is sure to come.”

Photos of hunters posing with animals killed on trophy hunts have been hot-button issues for years, and social media has helped electrify the debate.

Hunting, especially in states such as Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah, is largely viewed as both sport and a conservation tactic to keep species such as deer from overwhelming the ecosystem.

But U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke faced controversy earlier this year when his agency attempted to allow grizzly bear hunts outside Yellowstone National Park —though the issue has been tied up in the courts.

President Donald Trump —with the backing of his eldest sons, both hunting enthusiasts —reversed Obama-era rules banning game hunters from bringing back tusks, tails and other parts from elephants killed in Africa, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife has been allowing more imports of hunted lions from some African countries since Trump took office.

According to the governor’s announcement in 2014, Fischer was appointed along with Lane Clezie to the Fish and Game Commission. Otter called both “passionate sportsmen who bring great understanding of the Fish and Game Commission’s responsibilities to hunters, anglers, fish and wildlife and everyone who loves the outdoors.”