State officials want help catching who shot four elk near Chaparral Pines, the latest in a series of still-mysterious elk deaths in the area.
Information leading to an arrest could bring a reward of up to $10,000, put up by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish and the Arizona Elk Society.
Two young bull elk and one cow elk, all illegally shot and left to waste, were found in close proximity to each other in the Chaparral Pines community between the evening of Oct. 24 and Oct. 25, said Jarrod McFarlin, wildlife manager.
A fourth elk, also illegally shot, was found Oct. 31 in the same general area of Game Management Unit 22. Investigators believe someone shot that elk on Oct. 27 or 28.
Several weeks earlier, Game and Fish confirmed the discovery of half a dozen elk in the same general area. But in that case, the bodies were so decayed that officials could not determine a cause of death. They suspected accidental — or deliberate — poisoning.
Reportedly, as many as 15 elk carcasses had been discovered in recent weeks, but most of those deaths were not reported to Game and Fish.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief program is offering up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.
The Arizona Elk Society has put up an additional $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.
“The wasteful poaching of this many elk is a travesty to those of us that work hard to improve the health and habitat of elk in Arizona,” said Steve Clark, president of the Arizona Elk Society.
Anyone with information can call the Operation Game Thief Hotline toll free at (800) 352-0700 or use the online form at www.azgfd.gov/thief. The reference number for the case is 12-002661. All calls will remain confidential upon request.
“Poaching of wildlife is stealing from you,” McFarlin said. “Protect your wildlife by reporting poaching incidents.”
It is unknown if any more elk have been found dead since the four were found in late October. Chaparral Pines officials refused to comment.
Employees have reportedly been finding dead elk in the area for some time. All were too badly decomposed to determine their cause of death, McFarlin said.
At first, Game and Fish believed someone may have inadvertently been killing the elk by feeding them sugary food. These latest deaths, however, are clearly cases of poaching, he said.
The unfenced golf course can draw herds of grazing elk. A single elk can inflict damage on greens by simply walking across the grass. Elk have also foraged in yards and flower gardens.
Last year, elk also trampled to death a dog and injured a resident in her own back yard.
To learn more about Operation Game Thief, visit www.azgfd.gov/thief.