The sight of a butchered cow elk’s head sitting in the snow next to her unborn elk fetus has Denis Martel of Wilderness Watch fuming, and asking the public to be vigilant if they see any signs of elk poaching.
The gruesome find earlier this month isn’t an isolated incident.
"It’s one of many in the past few weeks," said Martel. "It’s a ongoing issue."
The group, which does its best to aid in the battle against poaching, always finds a few illegally killed elk in the winter, he said, but the beginning of this year has been particularly bad.
"That’s why we’re alarmed more than usual," Martel said.
The way the elk remains were found was the poachers making a statement, he said.
The mature pregnant cow was shot and the gut bag removed. The elk was then dragged several meters to another area where the poachers dressed out the rest of the animal, beheaded her, then removed the fetus from its birth sack.
Their final act was to lay the fetus beside the cow’s head.
"They’re rubbing it in our face," said Martel, adding that he believes the poachers are saying they’re untouchable.
Killing a female elk is particularly egregious he said, because if it happens often enough it can endanger the reproductive ability of whole herds.
"This is really a slap in the face. It’s a double whammy," Martel said. "It’s against the laws, what they’re doing, and then you’re taking females, plus you’re taking unborn fetuses and then displaying them, is what they’re doing." Martel hopes this will be a wake up call to the public. He urges anyone who sees or hears anything that may have to do with poaching to call the Conservation Officer Service 24-hour hotline 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).
It’s more important than ever for the public to be alert, he said, because the government has cut back to the point they are depending more and more on volunteers like those with Wilderness Watch and the Valley Fish & Game Club.