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“Wildlife officials hunt for park poacher”

December 17, 2009

Kevin Woster Journal staff | Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 5:00 pm

A familiar face is missing from the roadside wildlife herds in Custer State Park.

A familiar set of horns is gone, too.

One of the park’s popular bighorn sheep rams was poached Nov. 27, not far from the State Game Lodge campground.

And it wasn’t a fair chase.

“They’re very visible from the road. It wouldn’t be a challenge at all, because you can walk right up to them,” said Ron Tietsort, a conservation officer with the park staff. “I’m sure the ram was just standing there looking when it happened.”

The ram was shot with an arrow, probably chosen by the poacher to avoid detection in the generally busy area near the popular Game Lodge, Tietsort said. Hikers found the carcass, with head and cape removed, the morning of Nov. 28 along a trail near the Game Lodge campground. Evidence at the scene and information from hikers on the trail confirmed that the ram was killed Nov. 27.

Park wildlife officials believe they know which bighorn was poached, after examining the carcass and reviewing pictures of the few rams in the park, Tietsort said.

The poached ram was about seven years old and weighed about 250 pounds. Tietsort is trying to distribute old photos of the ram, which may help members of the public in identifying the trophy head.

The ram was a major loss to the bighorn sheep herd in the park, which was hit by a pneumonia outbreak five years ago. The park lost about 75 percent of a herd that numbered about 200 before the outbreak hit during the winter of 2004-2005. There are only about 30 bighorns left in the park, eight or nine of which are rams.

“That’s all we’ve got left. And to lose one like this, it really hurts,” Tietsort said.

The remaining adult sheep are believed to be immune to the pneumonia, which is still limiting bighorn lambs’ survival. Biologists hope the disease will eventually run its course and lamb survival will increase.

Although few in number, the remaining bighorns are regular visitors to the roadsides, campgrounds, picnic areas and lawns near park offices and resorts.

“Millions of people get to see those bighorns close up,” Tietsort said.

Now they’ll see one less.

[Editorial comment:  “Assholes!!  &#*$^!_+&$%!!!” — Margadant]

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 17, 2009 6:31 pm

    Oh yeah! to your comment. Man, that is incredibly selfish.

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