$1000 Offered for Information about Release of Domestic Elk

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The Department of Game and Fish is offering a $1,000 reward for information about eight domestic elk that were illegally released into the wild south of Clayton. The elk, discovered in mid-February, were euthanized due to concerns the animals may have been exposed to wildlife diseases.

Conservation officers who investigated the case reported that they were able to approach the elk like hand-fed cattle, which is not normal for wild elk. Five of the elk had holes in their ears, indicating they had been tagged as private property. Once it was established that the elk were not wild, Department officers and the State Veterinarian's Office deemed it necessary to immediately euthanize the animals to prevent a disease outbreak. The elk tested negative for tuberculosis and brucellosis. Test results for chronic wasting disease are pending.

Private elk herds, or game parks, are not uncommon in New Mexico , but they are strictly regulated, and elk must be held captive within a fence that ensures no elk escape and no wild elk can enter the park. It is unknown whether the eight elk found near Clayton were released from an approved New Mexico game park, or brought in from another state. New Mexico law prohibits the importation and release of any game animal. Recent chronic wasting disease outbreaks in New Mexico and neighboring states have led to tightened restrictions to protect native elk and deer populations, and private livestock herds.

Anyone with information about the elk found near Clayton is encouraged to call Operation Game Thief, (800) 432-4263. Callers can remain anonymous and earn a $1,000 reward if charges are filed.