I was pleased to see the peaceful, humane outcome of four months of negotiations that led Sandy Knox of the Marsing area to hand over a menagerie of wolves, bobcats, cats and dogs.
It’s a testament to the patience and professionalism of the federal state and local officials involved and Knox’s own concerns for her animals. 15 years ago I watched a different outcome at a place made famous by the movie Napoleon Dynamite, Ligertown.
There in a dilapidated would-be zoo near Soda Springs in 1995, several lions escaped and were running around eastern Idaho scaring the pants off people. Eventually authorities killed 19 lions, tigers and yes, ligers, a cross between the two animals. Twenty-four lions and three ligers were sent to other animal facilities.
The couple who had run the place were arrested and charged with misdemeanors but escaped major jail or fines, in part because Idaho didn’t have very strong state laws to address the issue.
I visited Ligertown earlier that year. You can could tell you were getting close by the strong odor and the unique chorus of howling wolves and roaring lions.
The couple said they really didn’t know how many lions they had because they had not entered the big barn they kept many of them in for months. They only had thrown food in.
I was there with a Idaho Department of Fish and Game warden and Suzanne Stone, who were inspecting the place mostly because of the 44 wolf hybrids. One had dug its way out of the flimsy cage where he was kept and killed dozens of chickens, turkeys, goats and other farm animals owned by the neighbors, just as a wolf attack on a cow brought Knox to officials attention.
They found that Ligertown had no electricity. The cages are put together with a variety of material from chicken cages to chain link. Many of the wolves were dehydrated.
Still, wardens didn’t have the authority at the time to act. It wasn’t until the lions escaped that federal officials stepped in.
The Ligertown raid took place close to Preston, then the home of Jared Hess, writer and director of Napoleon Dynamite. His reference in the movie made Ligers famous.