Reward offered in bighorn sheep poaching

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking for the public's assistance in finding the person or persons responsible for the illegal killing of a bighorn sheep lamb along Highway 88, also known as the Apache Trail, northeast of Apache Junction, Aug. 24.

Game and Fish received a call around 2:45 p.m. on Aug. 24 from a concerned citizen reporting that a bighorn sheep had been hit by an automobile on Fish Creek Hill along the Apache Trail, between Canyon and Apache lakes. Upon investigation, biologists discovered the animal had not been hit by a car, but had been illegally shot.

Investigating officers found firearm casings at the scene and determined the bighorn sheep lamb had been shot by someone standing on the road. Evidence indicated that the sheep was initially perched on the bluffs that tower above the uphill side of the route and fell to the road below after being shot.

At the time the department received the phone call, the bighorn sheep, though mortally wounded, was reportedly still alive. Game and Fish officials believe the extent of the animal's injuries and the time of the report would place the time of the poaching between 2 and 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 24.

"Recent surveys indicate the bighorn sheep population in this area is just starting to increase," Game and Fish Wildlife Officer Kriselle Colvin said. "Lots of hard work has gone into the reintroduction and recovery of these animals, and senseless crimes like this undermine the efforts of many dedicated conservationists and steal from the citizens of the state."

The department's Operation Game Thief Program is offering a reward of as much as $4,000 for the arrest of the subject or subjects who committed this crime. The Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society will, as with past cases, offer an additional reward of as much as $1,000 for a criminal conviction in this case.

To report information on this incident, or any wildlife law violation, call the department's Operation Game Thief hotline toll-free at 800-352-0700, or submit a report online at www.azgfd.gov/thief. Caller identities may remain confidential upon request.