There are several points of clarification required: First, of the seven deaths reported recently, one was a deer (not an elk). It was hit by a car driven by my neighbor.
The elk population has increased exponentially due to unlimited access to food and water. As Craig McMullen of Game and Fish said years ago, “If you were an elk you’d live in Chaparral Pines.” It is a numerical truth that if there is an increase in population there will be an increase in deaths. I know of some (misguided) people in Chaparral Pines who feed animals (elk, deer, javelina), but I also know people in other areas of Payson who also feed wildlife. There is a disease specific to elk, deer and moose called Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) which to date has not been reported in Arizona, but has infected herds in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. This should be investigated and eliminated before reaching conclusions. Friends in Pinetop have told me of an unusual death rate among elk in their area. Perhaps this is more than a local issue.
The most egregious part of the article concerns The Rim Club. Ms. Bechman did not do her homework. The Rim Club was fenced 12 years ago; elk cannot get in. In fairness there are a few who snuck in (tailgated through the vehicle entrances). The trampling of a family pet is rumored to have happened, but it was in The Knolls, a residential area in Star Valley east of The Rim Club. It did not happen at The Rim Club.
Ms. Bechman’s article is in large part erroneous and, at best, inaccurate. It is, however, a subject worthy of a well-researched article strong in research and lacking in sensationalism.
Editor’s note: The story correctly reported that the mysterious elk deaths in recent weeks took place at Chaparral Pines, which isn’t fenced. The article also said an incident in which an elk trampled a dog in the owner’s back yard took place in The Rim Club. In fact, as Mr. Purkey notes, that previous incident took place at The Knolls adjacent to The Rim Club, but outside the fencing. Officials initially said that incident took place at The Rim Club, but later clarified that it took place at The Knolls.