UPDATE: Idaho Gov. Butch Otter spoke to the media about Blake Fischer’s resignation Tuesday. Here is our story on that development.
Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Blake Fischer resigned Monday, three days after the Statesman first reported on complaints about photos he shared of an African hunting trip.
He was asked to resign by Gov. Butch Otter, the governor’s office said in a press release.
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The release said Fischer had received “intense criticism.” The Idaho Statesman received emails about his actions from as far away as Australia after Friday’s report on the photos he shared with friends and colleagues. Particularly, the image of his posing with a “family of baboons” he shot during his trip to Namibia provoked criticism from former Idaho wildlife commissioners and has circulated on national media outlets.
Fischer served on the unpaid commission for four years. Otter re-appointed him in June for a term ending in 2022, but he still needed Senate confirmation.
Otter returned from an out-of-state speaking engagement Monday specifically to handle the Fischer situation, said the governor’s spokesman, Jon Hanian.
“I have high expectations and standards for every appointee in state government,” Otter said in a press release. “Every member of my administration is expected to exercise good judgment. Commissioner Fischer did not. Accordingly, I have accepted his resignation from the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.”
The governor’s office received 1,134 emails and more than 320 phone calls about Fischer, Hanian said. All but nine of the emails and two of the phone calls disapproved of Fischer, he said.
Fischer apologized to Idaho’s hunters and anglers in his resignation letter, which you can read in full at the end of this report.
“I recently made some poor judgments that resulted in sharing photos of a hunt in which I did not display an appropriate level of sportsmanship and respect for the animals I harvested,” Fischer wrote in his resignation letter, which was provided by the governor’s office. “While these actions were out of character for me, I fully accept responsibility and feel it is best for the citizens of Idaho and sportsmen and women that I resign my post. I apologize to the hunters and anglers of Idaho who I was appointed to represent and I hope that my actions will not harm the integrity and ethic of the Idaho Fish & Game Department moving forward.”
Fischer, Trevey and Fish and Game Commission Chairman Derick Attebury couldn’t be immediately reached for further comment Monday. Otter declined an interview request. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game declined to comment; a spokesman noted commissioners are appointed by the governor and aren’t employees of the department.
Idaho’s seven Fish and Game commissioners represent various regions of the state. Fischer, who lives in Meridian, represented Southwest Idaho.
Fischer emailed the photos to more than 100 people last month when he and his wife returned from their trip to Africa. It was his third visit. The email included a rundown of the animals they hunted with photos of one or both of them posing with the animals. The first photo was of four baboons Fischer killed with a recurve bow at the beginning of the trip. Fischer posed, smiling, with what he called a “family of baboons.”
That prompted at least two former Fish and Game commissioners to email him telling him he should resign. One of those emails — written by Fred Trevey — was forwarded to the governor’s office by another former commissioner. That email indicated that several more former commissioners were bothered by Fischer’s actions.
The baboon hunt and photo were the primary source of criticism. Fischer or his wife also killed a giraffe, leopard, warthog and several types of antelope on the trip.
“I’m sure what you did was legal, however, legal does not make it right,” Trevey wrote in his email to Fischer. “... Sportsmanlike behavior is the center pin to maintaining hunting as a socially acceptable activity.”
Fischer was surprised by the criticism he received, which included a call from an unnamed current commissioner.
Before the photos went public, Fischer insisted in an interview with the Idaho Statesman that he’d done nothing wrong.
“I didn’t do anything illegal. I didn’t do anything unethical. I didn’t do anything immoral,” he 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.”
Fischer’s resignation took immediate effect. Otter is looking for a replacement. Residents can apply through gov.idaho.gov.