Patterson Ranch elk were famous for their magnificent racks. photo provided
Patterson Ranch elk were famous for their magnificent racks. photo provided
One of Sisters' most popular tourist attractions has moved away.

The elk herd that populated 363 acres on the Patterson Ranch at the west end of Sisters has been sold and transported to a new home in New Mexico.

The last elk left the Patterson Ranch Friday morning, September 18, according to Richard and Linda Patterson. The herd was purchased by elk breeders Don and Carol Ansley, Red Canyon Ranch, who own a large elk ranch in New Mexico.

"The rules of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife became too difficult to continue to raise these majestic animals," Richard Patterson said.

Debate over fencing requirements and other restrictions roiled through much of 2008 as some activists sought to end private elk ranching in Oregon.

"This was not an easy decision, since 20 years of breeding and caring went into making this one of the most important elk herds in North America," Patterson said.

Richard and Linda Patterson consistently ran about 300 head of Rocky Mountain elk (1,167 overall) on the property, mostly for breeding stock. 

A Patterson Ranch bull went 499.5 points in the Safari Club International rating system - the second-largest rack in the North American Elk Breeders competition.

People use elk antlers for a range of decorative purposes. Some hang them above the mantle; some make furniture of all kinds from the shed antlers. While antler products are the main presence in the market, there is a growing interest in elk meat, which is often much leaner and healthier than beef.

Richard Patterson was a horse breeder specializing in Polish Arabians when the ranch was purchased in 1968. He moved out from Ohio in 1973 and brought the horses and some llamas with him.

Patterson was a pioneer in the booming llama ranching industry and for many years the Patterson Ranch was the largest llama ranch in the United States.

"The horses were sold in '89 and I thought a farmer needs two crops," he said.

So he started his elk herd. In 1990, the ranch produced its first calves.

Through his life as a rancher, Patterson has had 100 Shropshire sheep, 15 Shetland ponies, around 2,000 Arabian horses, 225 Welsh mountain ponies, 4,650 llamas, 20 dromedary camels, one Bactrian camel, 20 alpacas, 10 walleroos, 35 Watusi cattle, and 1,167 Rocky Mountain elk.

Patterson will continue to act as a breeding consultant for the elk herd now in New Mexico.

Asked about other plans, Patterson said, "Do I have to do something? I hope to relax for a bit."