More elk have turned up dead in or near the Chaparral Pines gated community east of Payson.
Employees found two young bull elk and one cow elk last week, three within close proximity to each other in Chaparral Pines, said Jarrod McFarlin, wildlife manager with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The elk were found within days of each other and most likely poached between the evening of Oct. 24 and Oct. 25, he said.
A fourth elk, found Oct. 31 in the same general area, was probably killed on Oct. 27 or Oct. 28, he added.
Game and Fish officials have not disclosed how the elk died, but game wardens have blamed the deaths on poaching.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking for the public’s help in investigating these crimes.
“Poaching cases such as these are often solved with the help of concerned individuals within the community and we hope this one can be too,” he said.
A number of elk have turned up dead in recent months in the area, most too badly decomposed for officials to determine how they died. McFarlin said he therefore doesn’t know whether someone deliberately killed the elk found previously.
Some residents have speculated that the elk might have died as a result of eating a mixture of corn and molasses or sugar left out for them. Elk experts say that eating such a rich mixture can lead to intestinal problems that can kill an elk if they eat a large quantity without becoming used to the mixture.
However, the most recent cases game wardens called “poaching,” which means they don’t suspect accidental poisoning. The Rim Club reported half a dozen dead elk to Game and Fish in the earlier incidents. Residents have reported a much larger number of elk carcasses, but not all those cases were reported to the state.
Browsing elk drawn at night to the golf course grass and neighborhood plants pose a significant problem. A single big elk can damage a green just by walking across it. Chaparral Pines doesn’t have a fence around the course and so the grass attracts herds of elk every night. Reportedly, the club hires people to chase away the elk at night.
The nearby Rim Club invested in elk fencing around the whole property, which dramatically reduced the number of elk on the golf course and greens.
Anyone with information can call the department’s Operation Game Thief hotline toll-free at (800) 352-0700 or use the online form at www.azgfd.gov/thief. All calls remain confidential upon request.
A reward of up to $2,500 may be available for information leading to the arrest of the violator(s).
Operation Game Thief started in 1979, making it the second oldest such program in the country. Last year, the hotline received 720 calls that were forwarded on to officers for investigation.