Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2004


Game wardens still hunting for suspect in September killings

Alex Breitler

Record Searchlight

January 17, 2004 — 2:07 a.m.

MONTAGUE — Four months after a pair of bull elk was illegally shot and killed in Siskiyou County, officials this week turned to the public for help solving the case, offering a $1,000 reward.

California Department of Fish and Game warden Rennie Cleland said Friday that he hoped enough time had passed that the suspects would have boasted about the Sept. 20 poaching.

"I'm hoping they've got their egos satisfied," Cleland said. "Maybe they've shown off pictures or talked to friends at work or something like that."

Wardens say the shooting took place on the second to last day of the Siskiyou elk hunt, and at the very beginning of deer season, meaning there were potentially thousands of hunters out and about.

Cleland said the elk were shot on private land near the Little Shasta River east of Montague. The elk carcasses were left at the scene, though it appeared someone might have tried to move one of them into a creek bed for processing.

Cleland theorizes that the suspects heard a car approaching and took off.

The property owner found the carcasses, but didn't spot any hunters, he said.

The fact that the hunters fled magnitudes the crime, Cleland said.

"It would have really been a pretty mediocre violation had they just come forward and said, 'We screwed up,' " he said. "But this is very serious."

Recreational elk hunting is legal if done by the book.

But it's highly competitive.

The department issues 25 permits for the Siskiyou herd each year. About 1,500 hunters apply.

"It's very popular," said Fish and Game wildlife biologist Richard Callas.

At least 250 to 300 elk live in the Siskiyou herd between Interstate 5 and Highway 97, he said. The elk migrated into California on their own in the mid-1960s and have established a healthy herd here, he said.

Elk once spread all over the north state, but declined due to unregulated hunting. Populations have been re-established with human help in the Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps.

About one million elk live in North America, including 24 states. They thrive in coastal forests, alpine meadows, desert valleys and mountain ranges, according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

They weigh anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pounds, Callas said. They feed on grasses and woody plants.

Poaching has occurred in the past, but this is a particularly egregious case, said Cleland.

"They had no regard for the animals at all," he said.

If caught, the suspects could face misdemeanor charges punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail.

Reporter Alex Breitler can be reached at 225-8344 or at [email protected] .

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