Poached elk

State game wardens are investigating the illegal shooting of an elk cow and her calf last week in Boyd County. The calf was killed, and the cow survived five shots but had to be euthanized.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

State wildlife officers are still trying to find out who shot two elk — a cow and her calf — early last week in Boyd County.

“They were just shot and left to lay,” said Tom Zimmer, a Game and Parks conservation officer supervisor.

A landowner found the animals Oct. 26 next to a county road near Gross, about 110 miles northwest of Norfolk and not far from the South Dakota border.

The calf was dead. The mother, shot five times, was still alive but had to be euthanized. Their carcasses were intact, with no meat taken. Zimmer said it appears the shooter used a smaller-caliber weapon.

“It’s hard to say what they were thinking,” Zimmer said. “Some people go out and shoot stuff just for fun.”

The meat from the cow was salvaged and donated, he said.

If caught, the person responsible could face several charges, including taking game in a closed season, taking game without a permit, wanton waste and, possibly, shooting from a public roadway, Zimmer said.

He or she would also have to pay $1,500 per elk, the value of each animal under state law.

The elk were part of a larger herd that moved into the area more than 20 years ago and wanders between Nebraska and South Dakota. The Game and Parks Commission estimated the herd size at about 100 animals in 2011; today, it’s likely 50 to 100, said Kit Harms, the commission’s big-game program manager.

The commission created a hunting unit in Boyd County in 1996 and issues a limited number of permits — 33 in the past six years.

Overall, Nebraska is home to about 3,000 to 4,000 elk, Harms said. He estimated two to three are killed illegally every year. Those cases are often solved.

“People care about elk in this state,” Harms said. “I’d be very surprised if we don’t find out who did this.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.

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Peter Salter is a reporter.

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