Johnson County Yak War Moves to Cheyenne!

This week HB0173 is working its way into the Wyoming State Legislature.  The bill is a result of yak owners in Johnson County who were unable to contain their yaks on a number of occasions.  The bill would add yaks to the Public Nuisance laws governing dogs and cats.  It would be amusing if it wasn’t another example of insidious government regulation driven by ignorance.  Our western fencing laws are a study in the power of special interests.  “Fence out” and “Sheep is Different” are great examples of convoluted laws to protect the establishment at the exclusion of others.  The fact is that yaks are domestic bovine and should be governed by the same laws that cover any other cattleman’s stock.  The depth of elected official’s ignorance goes back to when Johnson County Commission Chairman, Gerald Fink stated: “Another part of this was that yaks not being indigenous you might say to the state, they’re not provided for under the same regulations and state statues as other livestock are”.  Interestingly he seems to understand that yaks are livestock rather than domestic pets.  Somehow he missed the fact that cattle, goats, sheep, hogs, and he himself are not “indigenous”.  The county couldn’t enact a law to punish a single citizen and now the surrounding cattle ranchers are trying to get a “yaks are cats” bill passed at the State Legislature.

If one spends a few minutes reading the comments on the various articles surrounding the controversy, you will see that several folks are fearful of yaks.  Rightfully so, just as one might fear any domestic cattle that aren’t familiar and off their property.  Cattle can display a range of behavior, but at issue is not the yak’s behavior, it is the owner’s, Wyoming fence law, and livestock regulation.  Treating one rancher differently because he chose to pioneer a breed of livestock that are mostly likely better adapted to the the local environment than the “indigenous” cattle seems out of line with the Wyoming ethos. 

A call to Yaktion!

Pick up the phone or fire up your email and contact these folks. Help them use the Wyoming common sense that I was once so proud of.  If Wyoming needs to put into law the definition of a yak, it needs to add them to the existing list of domestic cattle.   

Representative Dan Zwonitzer is the sponsor on this bill., 

cell  307-214-7826

Representative Mark Semlek Chairman of the Ag. Committee,, 


The legislative hotline is 307-777-7881

Where I sit: I am a small yak rancher based in Colorado. Much of my family lives in Wyoming, I went to college in Wyoming, and my grandparents lived and ranched in in Johnson County for years. I am a member of the the board of directors of the International Yak Association but the opinions stated here are in no way a representation of IYAK’s position. I do have a yak in this fight.

Links to Articles

How big is the yak problem in county?

Yak-at-large ordinance yanked

Yaks, like other animals in Wyoming will try to find food

Defining a nuisance


Johnson County Yak War?

Comments from Original Post:

The Yak Ranch

Just spoke with Dan Zwonitzer. Dan was gracious enough to listen and try to describe the need for this bill. He also gave me the name of the Wyoming Livestock Board, Jim Swartz - 307-777-7515. I left Jim a message and look forward to discussing the issue with him. The bill will go to the floor next Thursday (2/3/2011) between 7 and 10 am.  The Yak Ranch

Jim Swartz with the Wyoming Livestock Board called back this morning. He was gracious and very sensible on this issue. Jim was very aware that yaks are bovine and not cats or even dogs. He indicated that there had been a different bill forwarded that would have allowed county commissioners to to treat any livestock at large under county nuisance laws. Is seems this didn't fly as apparently the "goose and gander rule" does not apply to some folks in Wyoming. Jim indicated that he was opposed to the legislation as proposed and felt it was bad law. After speaking with him, my faith in the common sense of the folks of Wyoming is nearly restored! If the legislature can see to kill this bill, my faith will be fully restored. 

The Yak Ranch

Jim called me last night to tell me that HB0173 would not have a hearing this morning as previously scheduled. I verified this with Dan this morning. It looks like the bill won't get out of committee this year. Thanks to all the folks that called or wrote to their reps. We may have won this battle but we must be ever vigilant in the fight to prevent "yaks" from being labeled "cats"! 

Scott Rogers 

I agree with you that this is all a bunch of crap! It only got this far because of the complete arrogance of the yak owners! It is THEIR responsibilty to keep their yaks on their property, not the responsibility of the neighbors to keep them off their property. If they can't contain them because they do not have enough feed for them, then get rid of them. BOTTOM LINE! As for treating them just like any other livestock, I'm all for it. If they were cows with this history of neglect they would have been sold a long time ago. Refer to the livestock statutes referring to estray cattle and the remedies. This IS the law of the land that all regular livestock owners must adhere to. DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU GO SPOUTING OFF! 

The Yak Ranch 

Thanks Scott. As much as I used sarcasm to highlight the absurdity of this law, I think you make my point. Any change to the WY statute required to ensure that yak owners are handled in the same manner as cattle owners would be more than appropriate. I am not sure which piece of home work I missed and I am not real clear as to your position. What solutions are you advocating? 

Scott Rogers 

It says my comments are too long, so I am sending you a trilogy. ENJOY! 

1. Just in case you are wondering I am THE SCOTT ROGERS. I have been visited by the yaks and I live over 5 miles from the Yak Daddy Ranch. This is not a simple breech of fence issue. This is a complete disregard for animals and their well-being, plain and simple. The solution, as you preSent it, is not so simple. No legislator in is right mind is going to open up the brand law to include yaks, as they should be. Why you ask? Because with the ongoing debate over national animal ID (NAIS) nobody wants to open us to unnecessary litigation. Yaks aren't worth it. So, yes, we are stuck to stopgap measures such as what has been going on. But I think the whole story tells the whole tale! What kind of person continues down the same road when there are three pieces of legislation pending against them and their yaks? I think at bear minimum it is time to do some reflecting on his operation in general! I have a hell of a lot more critters running over a significantly larger area and I am pretty damn sure there is no pending legislation against me! 

2. As for solutions I am advocating, I propose the yak daddy ranch start by taking care of their livestock! The "I should be able to come get them next thursday or friday or whenever you want to gather them" is pure BS! The piece of homework you missed is all of the legislation that WOULD apply if they were under brand law as they should be. If you choose to run unbranded livestock all over god's creation, there are remedies. LOOK IT UP! You claim you are from Johnson County and propose reasonable solutions, here's one for you: if you starve critters down until they continuously tear down the fence and leave, you are not worthy of owning them. Whether they are Yaks or buffalo or emus, or horses or whatever! Therefore, it is the duty of the livestock board to relieve you of this burden and give you a check for the fair market value (at the nearest sale barn on any given day) of your livestock minus any incurred expenses. Just they never named Yaks specifically. 

The Yak Ranch 

Scott, I did not claim to be from Johnson county. My Grandfather and Grandmother did live and ranch in Johnson county for decades. I am not in support of anyone neglecting their animals, failing to contain them on their property, or looking for a legal loophole to avoid responsibility for their actions. I am opposed to writing new legislation that targets a specific breed of livestock to be treated differently than similar livestock. Thanks for your comments. 

Scott Rogers 


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