Wildlife officials in Arizona said Tuesday they are searching for poachers who allegedly killed a pronghorn antelope and left its headless body behind, with a reward of up to $1,500 offered for information leading to an arrest.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has asked members of the public for help finding the individual or individuals responsible for the illegal killing of the pronghorn antelope buck. The animal was recently found dead along a road near Paulden, a small town in the central part of the state, more than 60 miles west of Flagstaff.
The animal's headless body was discovered within the boundaries of an area that, at the time, was closed for pronghorn antelope hunting, the game and fish department said in a news release. Investigators believe the antelope was killed at some point between Aug. 21 and Aug. 24. Darren Tucker, a wildlife manager with the department, said the crime was one example of how poachers "steal from wildlife and Arizonans."
"Poachers are not hunters," Tucker's statement read. "They are criminals who steal from wildlife and Arizonans; this is the act of a poacher, not a lawful hunter."
People looking to hunt animals of any kind in Arizona are required to apply for an obtain permits from the state wildlife department, and specific permits are required for anyone looking to hunt pronghorn antelope or elk. Once a permit is obtained, hunters are still bound to a number of regulations, including date and location restrictions, in order to hunt legally.
Officials urged anyone with potential information relating to the antelope's death to report what they know to the wildlife department's Operation Game Thief hotline, adding that hunters and others knowledgeable about backcountry recreation are usually "the best sources of leads for catching wildlife violators."
Callers can request to report tips anonymously and their confidentiality will be protected under Arizona law, the wildlife department said. The reward offered would be funded by criminal poaching fines, civil restitution and donations.
Efforts to increase pronghorn antelope populations statewide are underway in Arizona. The Arizona Antelope Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on conservation, organizes large-scale volunteer projects in pursuit of what the group calls its core mission, "to increase pronghorn populations in Arizona through habitat improvements, habitat acquisition, the translocation of animals to historic range, and public comment on activities affecting pronghorn and their habitat."
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