Nov. 13—The Maine Warden Service is investigating the illegal killings of two moose in Washington and Aroostook counties.
The deaths occurred last week but are unrelated, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
"What makes these two incidents egregious and maybe a little more alarming to the public is these moose were not only killed illegally — out of season and in an area that wasn't open to moose hunting — but were left to waste in the field," said Lt. Aaron Cross of the Maine Warden Service. "Some people wait their entire lives to get a moose permit. If they do, that one moose that they harvest legally could feed one family or multiple families for a long time."
Game wardens in Washington County found a dead moose about 70 yards off Grand Falls Road in Baileyville midday on Friday. They determined the moose was shot from the road between 8 and 11:45 a.m., according to wildlife officials.
In T9 R5 WELS, an unincorporated part of Aroostook County just south of Ashland, a dead moose was found a day earlier on County Road 15, a logging road that runs east from Route 11. Game wardens received a report that the moose had been shot and left on the road Thursday but determined it could have been killed the night before.
Cross said game wardens are in the early stages of their investigations.
The warden service typically investigates a few illegal killings a year in which moose or deer are killed left in fields to rot. They can be difficult to investigate because of limited evidence, Cross said.
That's why the warden service releases information to the public to generate tips. Operation Game Thief, a nonprofit program that works with the warden service and Maine Marine Patrol, is instrumental to solving some of the most egregious crimes, Cross said.
Operation Game Thief, which began in 1989, helps gather tips about illegal poaching and offers rewards that can lead to arrests and convictions. People can submit tips anonymously. About 80% of people who submit tips that lead to convictions turn down the reward money.
"There are only about 120 game wardens across the state," said Greg Sirpis, chair of the Operation Game Thief board. 'We need the public to be our eyes and ears out there."
Operation Game Thief receives tips every week about poaching across the state. That includes instances of overfishing and introducing fish into bodies of water where they don't belong, which are also considered poaching.
Sirpis said he believes poaching is more widespread than people realize because it happens under the radar. It is hard to manage natural resources so that they last for generations to come if the state doesn't have accurate numbers of animals harvested, he said.
"Poaching is no different than stealing food off the shelf," he said.
Cross said it can sometimes take years to gather enough evidence to secure a conviction, but the department is committed to holding people accountable for illegally killing animals. Whoever killed the moose in Washington and Aroostook county could be charged with a Class D crime that carries a $1,000 fine and three days in jail per violation.
Operation Game Thief is offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for either moose killing. Tips can be submitted to any Maine State Police communications center or to Operation Game Thief through its "Tips 411" app or at maineogt.org.