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Arizona wildlife officials investigate illegal killing of a desert bighorn sheep; $6500 reward offered

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Wildlife officials in Arizona are investigating the illegal killing of a desert bighorn sheep that was left for dead last month and offering a reward for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible.

The carcass of the adult ram was found not far from an agricultural field near Gila Bend, about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said Friday.

Investigators believe the animal was shot around the weekend of Jan. 13 and left to rot.

“There is no justifiable reason to poach an animal during a closed season and leave it to waste,” said Travis Clarkson, a wildlife manager in the department’s Yuma region. “Poachers are not hunters or sportsmen; they are criminals who are stealing from the residents of Arizona.”

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“Due to the location of the crime scene, a hunter, an off-highway vehicle user, or a field worker near the area may have seen something or heard something that may assist officers in solving this case,” he said.

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The agency is teaming up with local hunting and conservation groups to post a $6,500 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Authorities asked anyone with information to call the Operation Game Thief Hotline toll-free at 1-800-352-0700.

Arizona’s bighorn population is estimated at 6,000 animals, which includes both the desert and Rocky Mountain races, according to wildlife officials.

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