A half-dozen elk have been poached near the Bitner Fire Station in apparently related cases, officials say
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is investigating an apparent poaching spree in the hills north of the Bitner Fire Station near Glenwild in which at least six elk were illegally killed during a roughly one-month span earlier this winter.
The officer investigating the incident, Jonathan Moser, said there’s no doubt the animals were killed illegally. Not only were the animals intact when he discovered them, with antlers still in place and no meat removed, they were shot out of hunting season. At least one was killed with a weapon that is illegal to use to harvest elk. The cases appear to be related.
“I really don’t know why they would go out and shoot these elk,” Moser said. “It’s beyond me.”
He is investigating the incidents and asked anyone who noticed anything suspicious in the area between Dec. 20 and Jan. 20 to call the DWR poaching tip line at 800-662-3337.
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“I’m really hoping that somebody was in the area and they saw something suspicious, ‘Was that really a rifle out that guy’s window? Was that something I really saw?’” Moser said. “If they saw something suspicious in that timeframe and they can recall the color of a vehicle or stickers on the back, something that could help me identify a suspect.”
Toward the end of January, Moser was patrolling the area and decided to check in on a bachelor herd of elk that had been living off Knob Hill Road north of Interstate 80. He said there were about 14 or 15 elk in the group, though a neighbor told him there may have been more than 25.
He noticed the body of a dead elk on the hillside and went to investigate, and when he continued to look, found another. A resident then notified him of a third, and Moser said it appears that all had been shot.
Moser’s investigation turned up three more elk that appeared to have been killed in the area in the span of a few weeks, brining the total to a half-dozen. All deaths were suspicious and all of the elk were apparently shot, Moser said. At least one had been shot with a .22 caliber rifle, which he said is illegal to use to hunt elk. Elk hunting season ended in early November.
It’s possible that hunting is legal in the general area, DWR Lt. Chad Bettridge said, but that would require it be done on private land with the permission of the landowner and using one of the landowner’s hunting tags.
Moser said he has a couple of theories but doesn’t know why someone would kill the elk. It’s possible someone hoped the elk would wander away and die after being shot, allowing the poacher to then “find” the carcass and the antlers, he said. Or perhaps the poacher planned to ask for the antlers after the DWR processes the carcasses.
Some mature bull elk remove themselves and live together in bachelor herds around this time of year, Moser explained. He estimates the poacher started targeting the herd just before Christmas and struck for the last time around Jan. 15. One area woman reported she had a photo of one specific elk alive one day and dead in her backyard the next.
“The loss of opportunity with these animals is just incredible,” Moser wrote in an email. “Setting aside any ‘hunting’ related opportunity, Park City residents no longer have the opportunity to see these magnificent animals. (It’s) just a very sad situation.”
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