Elk found shot to death in Park City, poaching probe launched | ParkRecord.com

Elk found shot to death in Park City, poaching probe launched

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The carcass of an elk that had been shot to death was discovered in late July in the vicinity of the National Ability Center, investigators said, prompting a probe into who killed the animal and whether the shooting is a case of poaching.

The Park City Police Department received a report about the dead animal at just after 11 a.m. on July 27 and contacted the state Division of Wildlife Resources. State wildlife officials are leading the investigation, with the wildlife officer assigned to the Park City area, Brandon Olson, indicating the animal had been shot twice.

According to Olson, the elk suffered a bullet wound in its head and another one in its underbelly. However, he said, he was unable to find bullets or bullet fragments in the carcass. He was unable to determine how close the shooter was to the elk. He said, though, elk that are shot to death are often shot in the body first and then killed with a round to the head.

A private firm hired to dispose of the carcass had moved the animal by the time wildlife officers arrived, Olson said, indicating that police officers stopped them from leaving in a truck with the animal. It was not clear who found the carcass, but someone from the Park City Public Works Department notified the police.

"It could have flat-out poached. It could have been sick and they felt bad for it," Olson said, acknowledging that the elk appeared to have been in good health before it was shot.

The elk was an adult cow. State wildlife officials disposed of the carcass in the mountains. Rick Ryan, a Police Department captain, said the animal was found on the side of a trail in the brush area between the National Ability Center and the Silver Cloud neighborhood on the edge of Park Meadows.

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Olson said elk-hunting season was not open in late July. The next season for elk starts in late August and is only open to bow hunters. The next elk-hunting season open to people using rifles starts in October.

"No matter what the reason for it, that was an illegal kill," Olson said.

If someone is arrested in connection with the killing, they could face a charge as serious as wanton destruction of wildlife. That type of charge could be as serious as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. It is also illegal to hunt within the Park City limits and to fire a weapon inside the city.

Olson said investigators had not generated clues in the case by the end of the week. He said it appeared that the elk was killed within 24 hours before it was found, based on the condition of the carcass.

"It’s really disappointing to have this happen," he said.

A National Ability Center official had not heard of the case by Friday morning and declined to comment.

Elk are plentiful in the Park City area. It is extremely rare, though, for one to be found shot to death in the city. Suspected poaching cases involving other species inside Park City are also highly unusual.

People with information about the case may contact the Division of Wildlife Resources anonymous-tip line, 1-800-662-3337. A recorded message calls the line the ‘turn-in-a-poacher hotline." People may also call the Police Department at 615-5500 or the department’s anonymous-tip line, 615-5847.