Two reports of elk poaching are under investigation by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
In both cases, the elk were killed outside of a designated elk-hunting season, officials said.
The first incident was reported Nov. 4 when a 7-by-7 bull elk was found southeast of Flagstaff near Happy Jack, the agency said.
Hunters contacted officials when they saw the dead elk 430 yards from a stock tank.
Officials say the animal had been scavenged by bears, leading them to believe it had died a few days earlier. A reward of up to $8,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in this case, state Game and Fish officials said in a news release.
The second case occurred on either Nov. 10 or 11 when a poached cow elk was found in Strawberry near U.S. Forest Service Road 308H, Game and Fish officials said.
Investigators believe the hunters were camping near a closed road when they poached the elk and a non-game bird in the same location.
Investigators say they found bloody fingerprints and possible DNA on litter at the second crime scene. A reward of up of to $2,500 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in this case.
Poachers illegally kill the animals as a trophy, as a means of food or for the thrill of killing the animal, said Scott Fischer, AZGFD Operation Game Thief program manager.
Killing for sustenance is not always illegal, but is when the animal is not in hunting season, Fischer said.
"Persons found guilty of illegal take of wildlife could face criminal fines imposed by the court after arrest or citation," said Fischer. "They could have their licensing privileges revoked by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, as well the Commission could assess them a civil penalty for the loss of the value of the animal to the state."
Elk hunting is legal in Arizona only during designated hunting seasons and in specified locations throughout the year. Several seasons are designated by the state each year. Hunters are required to obtain permits issued by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. More information can be found at afgfd.com.
Anyone with information about either of the poaching cases is encouraged to call Arizona Game and Fish Department at 1-800-352-0700.
Nikki Julien, director of education, talks about the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, which is located in Scottsdale. Mark Henle/azcentral.com