Antlers removed from elk carcass near Trailside
January 23, 2015
The removal of a dead bull elk’s antlers in the Trailside area last week left some residents concerned, angered and saying the animals are an integral part of the neighborhood’s character.
"Wildlife is one of the reasons why people move here," Corinne Humphrey, a Trailside resident, said. "They are beautiful and it’s nice to see there is still some wildlife in the area because their neighborhood is getting smaller and smaller."
On Friday, Jan. 16, Humphrey discovered the elk carcass in the snow near the entrance of the trail network surrounding the Trailside and Highland Estates neighborhoods near Silver Sage Drive. The antlers had been removed.
"I just saw this beautiful elk and someone had sawed off its antlers, so my immediate thought was it had been shot," Humphrey said, adding that the situation reminded her of an elk who had been shot in the same area a few years ago. "It made me angry that someone would do that."
Within an hour, Lucas McTaggart, a conservation officer with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources whose district includes Summit County, responded to the scene.
"I took a look at it and in my investigation I was not able to determine a cause a death," McTaggart said. "But, I didn’t see anything to make me think it was illegal."
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An accident on a nearby highway or a number of incidents could have contributed to the death of the elk, McTaggart said.
"I do a pretty thorough investigation, mostly looking for bullet holes, to make sure there was nothing done illegally and I didn’t see anything that would suggest there was," he said.
Oftentimes, Division of Wildlife Resources officials will remove the antlers in an effort to ensure someone does not take them illegally and sell them.
"A problem we have is with people taking antlers," McTaggart said, adding that a permit is required for removal.
Otherwise, it is illegal and considered a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,000 fine upon conviction.
In this incident, the antlers were removed before wildlife officials arrived.
"Someone said they had seen the elk the day before laying there with its antlers on and the next day they were gone," McTaggart said. "It’s not the crime of the century, but it is stealing from the state since wildlife is state property."
There are no suspects and the case will be difficult to solve, McTaggart said.
"If I had found a bullet in the elk, then it would be a bigger deal and the investigation would go in a different direction," he said. "But no one saw anything and it would be nearly impossible to identify a suspect."
But that provides little comfort to the residents who want justice for the animals they feel an attachment to since they regularly frequent the area in the winter.
"This pretty much had the neighborhood in an uproar," Krista Raynor-Mueller, a Highland Estates resident, said. "These animals have been here for 16 years and we have all been enjoying them in our yard and in our neighborhood."
Raynor-Mueller said she even considered posting a reward to aid wildlife officials in capturing a suspect.
"This elk herd winters here every year and they are just beautiful," she said. "We are sickened by this senseless brutality on our wildlife."
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