Major rewards are being offered in mature bull elk poaching case.
Six bull elk were recently poached in Utah and huge rewards are being offered to help find the people responsible.
The reward in this case is now over $18,000 and counting thanks to a GoFundMe campaign started by the city's residents. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says the six animals, all mature bulls, were shot outside of hunting season sometime between December 20, 2019 and January 15, 2020.
A Utah DWR press release says the crimes happened in the Knob Hill area of Park City. More specifically, in the Bitner Road area. This part of the city is an urban, residential area just outside of Salt Lake City that sees many wintering elk. DWR officers who investigated found all the bulls had simply been left to rot. The release says conservation officers were tipped off after residents familiar with the animals called in to report the number of adult bull elk mysteriously dropping.
Utah is one of several states that levies harsher penalties for trophy-size animals with larger antlers. According to conservation officers, five of the six bulls meet those requirements, which under Utah State Code, could lead to as much as $8,000 each in minimum restitution value. That means the person or persons responsible could be facing as much $40,000 in fines. It's likely they'll also get hit with additional charges for the wanton waste of the animals.
What's worse than the crime is the poacher or poachers' choice of firearm. Local news station Fox 13 News reports most of the elk were shot with a gun chambered in tiny little .22, a round wholly unsuited for use on elk.
"We're always just upset whenever there is illegal hunting, illegal poaching, because it takes that opportunity for other people who are going through the right channels to legally hunt," Utah DWR Public Information Officer Faith Heaton Jolley told the station. "It's a total waste of the meat that maybe could have been utilized by a licensed hunter."
The news of the elk deaths spread quickly around the Snyderville and Park City areas. Local residents quickly organized a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a reward. The page says the money will be given to anyone that gives information "directly leading to the arrest and conviction" of the person or persons responsible for the crimes. The campaign exceeded its original $10,000 goal and was at $18,582 and rising fast as of the time of this writing.
Meanwhile wildlife officials are encouraging anyone with information on suspicious activity in the area of the crime to call the DWR's Ogden office at 801-476-2740 or the UTIP hotline at 1-800-662-3337. Informants have the option to remain anonymous. You also have the option of submitting information through a form on their website.