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From: TSS (
Subject: $30,000 CWD research elk shot near Hesperus
Date: October 28, 2004 at 1:30 pm PST

October 28, 2004

$30,000 research elk shot near Hesperus

By Ann Butler
Herald Staff Writer
$30,000 research elk shot near Hesperus. Durango, Colorado.
Jester, a bull elk valued at $30,000, is shown earlier this year at the San Juan Basin Research Center near Hesperus.

The carcass of a bull elk used to research chronic wasting disease and valued at $30,000 was found Monday afternoon at the San Juan Basin Research Center, located five miles south of Hesperus.

Lt. Dan Bender, with the La Plata County Sheriff's Office, said the elk probably had been shot on Sunday, the last day of the second hunting season.

Investigator Dan Patterson said the department had recovered the gun, a .270-caliber Winchester rifle, binoculars and a shell casing at some distance from the dead animal. That type of rifle would be accurate at several hundred yards, Bender said.

"It's still an open investigation," he said. "We have not ruled out any possible motive, but at this point we have no information indicating that it was an act of criminal mischief. The enclosure that the elk was in was surrounded by land where hunting could legally take place."

He also said that one of the investigators at the site where the rifle was recovered looked through some binoculars and was able to see the elk but was not able to see the fence.

The Cervid Research and Recovery Institute owned the elk, named Jester, which was the product of eight years of breeding in conjunction with Colorado State University. The elk was standing in an area that was surrounded by an 8-foot galvanized mesh fence on the south side of the 1,500-acre reserve at the research center.

"The goal of the research is to develop a viable strain that is resistant to chronic wasting disease," said Barry Dyar, the research director of the Cervid Research and Recovery Institute. "He's the best bull we've had, and there's no other bull in that strain."

The institute has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the research that led to Jester. The bull was 6 years old and was the dominant herd bull. This was the first year he would have been used for breeding.

Reward for information
The Cervid Research and Recovery Institute is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for killing Jester. To report information, call investigator Dan Patterson at the La Plata County Sheriff's Office at 382-7015.

Jester's antlers had been removed a week earlier during a routine research exercise, but his antler bases still remained. Sheriff's Office investigators speculated that a hunter may have mistaken Jester for a large cow elk because of the removal.

"It's absurd to think an experienced elk hunter would mistake Jester for a cow elk," said Dyar. He pointed out that a cow elk weighs around 550 pounds, while Jester weighed more than 1,000 pounds.

"We recognize that this was a devastating loss to the research that's being done," Bender said. "We will continue to investigate."

Reach Staff Writer Ann Butler here .


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