UPDATED: Park City police probe elk killings in Round Valley
Two cow elk were shot and killed in Round Valley in late December, prompting a criminal investigation and leaving a leading Park City trails advocate and others displeased with what transpired.
Charlie Sturgis, the executive director of the not-for-profit Mountain Trails Foundation, said the animals were killed on City Hall-owned open space close to Old Ranch Road. Sturgis said someone recreating in Round Valley on Saturday evening saw several people loading an elk carcass into a truck on a dirt road just outside the municipal open space. A hiker found the other elk carcass midday on Sunday.
Sturgis said it is “very unlikely that it’s a legal kill” as he described the cases as poaching.
“A good hunter’s not going to leave a dead animal behind. … They don’t abandon them,” Sturgis said.
He also noted the danger of shooting in Round Valley, a popular recreation area throughout the year that draws snowshoers and cross-country skiers in the winter.
The Park City Police Department is investigating the cases and has confirmed the locations are within the city limits and on open space owned by City Hall. Corey Allinson, a Police Department sergeant, said a pile of animal guts was found at one of the locations and the elk carcass at the other one. City Hall prohibits hunting and shooting on the open space in Round Valley and other municipally owned land.
Thomas Cooke, a Silver Summit resident, was a witness, saying he was driving on Old Ranch Road close to a Round Valley trailhead when he saw two parked pickup trucks at approximately 6:25 p.m. on Saturday. He saw two people loading an elk carcass into one of the trucks, Cooke said, describing the two people as appearing as they were attempting to conceal the activity.
Cooke said hunting is “incompatible with the use of open space” for recreation.
“It seems like a conflict with our community’s values,” he said.
The Police Department released information about the vehicles and are seeking assistance from the public. The vehicle the people were seen loading the elk carcass into is a gold or silver Chevrolet or GMC with a partial Utah license plate of L44. The other vehicle is an older model white Chevrolet or GMC with a partial Utah license plate of W777ET, or similar plate number.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is also investigating and responded to the scene. Faith Heaton Jolley, a spokesperson for the division, said the investigation is centered on whether the elk were killed legally and whether the person who shot and killed the two animals fired their weapon within 600 feet of a house, something that is prohibited by state law unless written permission is obtained from the owner or the manager of the property.
Hunting season for cow elk opened Nov. 23 and closes on Jan. 31. Heaton Jolley also said the division wants to learn whether the person who killed the elk held a permit. She said there is a possibility a citation could be issued on a count of wanton destruction of wildlife if a suspect is identified.
The Police Department over the years has received occasional complaints about hunting in Round Valley, a wildlife-rich tract of land that stretches outward from the edge of Park Meadows toward U.S. 40 and the Snyderville Basin. Some of the cases involved hunters killing elk. There has long been concern about the potential of conflict between hunters and recreation lovers in Round Valley.
Anybody with information may contact the Police Department at 615-5500.
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