A reward is being offered in connection with the illegal shooting of a bull elk last weekend in Sawyer County.
The animal was found dead Saturday morning on Highway 77 about 7 miles west of Clam Lake, according to Dave Zebro, warden supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The elk was estimated to be 3 or 4 years old. It was found in the ditch on the north side of the highway about 30 feet from the pavement.
It had been shot through the shoulders with a large-caliber firearm, Zebro said. A slug was recovered and is being analyzed to determine its caliber and other details that may be helpful in the investigation.
The illegal shooting is being investigated by the DNR, the Sawyer County Sheriff's Department and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Elk were native to Wisconsin but were wiped out by unregulated hunting in the 1800s. A reintroduction effort begun in 1995 has resulted in a northern Wisconsin herd estimated at 271 to 296 elk and a central Wisconsin herd with about 75 to 80, according to DNR figures.
A few animals have been poached over the years, but other sources of mortality, including collisions with automobiles and predation by wolves and bears, have taken more elk than illegal shootings.
Zebro said the animal likely was shot between 5 and 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
"We'd sure like to hear from anyone who was traveling down Highway 77 during that time period and talk about what they saw," Zebro said.
However, as of Wednesday the Saywer County Sheriff's Department and the DNR were still asking the public for information.
To assist with that effort, state conservation groups have committed $2,250 for a reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the poacher or poachers.
Rob Bohmann of Racine, representing the Friends of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, is the point person for the fund.
So far the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, four Wisconsin chapters of Safari Club International, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and the Friends of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress have pledged money for the reward, Bohmann said.
Any individual or organization willing to offer additional monies to the reward fund should contact Bohmann at email@example.com.
People who would like to report information on the poaching should call the DNR's anonymous tip line at (800) 847-9367 or use the department's online portal; call the Sawyer County Sheriff's Department at (715) 634-4858; or call the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission at (715) 682-6619.
2019 elk hunting seasons: For the second consecutive year, Wisconsin is holding elk hunting seasons this fall for tribal and state hunters. A total of 10 bull elk tags (five each) were made available this year.
As of Wednesday, tribal hunters had taken three elk, said Charlie Rasmussen, spokesman for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The general public hunt opens Oct. 12 for the five hunters who drew tags in the special lottery and raffle drawing held earlier this year.