By Chris Engle
MONTMORENCY COUNTY — One or more poachers dumped the carcass of a bull elk in the pit of a gas well north of Atlanta last month and conservation officers want to know who did it.
An anonymous caller reported finding the carcass near Decheau Lake and Meaford roads on Dec. 28.
Mark DePew, a conservation officer with the Department of Natural Resources in Gaylord, said the large bull had been butchered elsewhere and disposed at the well site. He found a gunshot wound on the animal.
“It’s definitely a poaching incident,” DePew said, noting all elk killed during the December hunt have been accounted for.
Hunters must bring their kill to the Atlanta check station and submit the heads for disease testing in Lansing.
DePew said this was the third or fourth elk poached in 2013, and each is significant because of the herd’s small size — less than 1,000 animals — and are highly valued by hunters.
“We aggressively go after all leads just because of the high priority on this species,” DePew said, noting hunters sometimes wait decades before drawing a permit. “To take a bull like that is just insult to injury for every sportsman out there. It’s nothing more than greed.”
Elk poaching carries fines up to $2,500, restitution to the state up to $1,500, loss of the firearm used in the incident and loss of hunting privileges for up to three years.
Anyone with information on the incident can call the DNR Law Division at the Gaylord Operations Service Center at 732-3541 or the 24-hour Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800.
“If anyone saw anything or has information, we’d like to hear from them,” said Lt. Jim Gorno in Gaylord.
Information can be left anonymously and monetary rewards are often offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
A total of 78 elk were killed during the early elk hunt in August and September. Another 93 were killed Dec. 7-15.
Jennifer Kleitch, a wildlife biologist at the Atlanta DNR office, said the department uses hunting to manage the herd’s numbers and distribution.
“We have certain hunting areas, dates and quotas, and we are very deliberate in order to maintain a healthy elk herd in balance with the available habitat,” she said in a December press release. “Where the elk actually are and their impacts on habitat are the biggest concerns in elk management. Our hunts are used to help keep elk in large blocks of public land to reduce conflicts on agricultural and private lands.”