SMITHS FERRY, Idaho — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is investigating after four bull moose were illegally shot at recently, and three of them killed.
All four shootings happened in Valley County.
A large bull moose found dead and left to waste Saturday is believed to have been shot west of Smiths Ferry in Unit 24 between Oct. 10 and Oct. 17.
Two other moose were killed in separate incidents in the Landmark and Snowbank areas of Valley County Friday morning. Fish and Game said both animals were shot by inexperienced hunters who mistook them for elk.
In both cases, the hunters immediately called Fish and Game to report the illegal kills.
"Potentially, killing a moose during closed season could result in a felony and a $10,000 restitution to the state, but other options exist for people who come forward and handle the mistake correctly," Conservation Officer Marshall Haynes said. "To put it simply, hunters are always responsible for knowing their target, and this isn't a mistake they should be making. However, in the event that a mistake is made, doing the right thing and self-reporting will save you a lot of trouble in the long run."
Another incident happened Saturday north of Payette lake. After witnesses reported seeing two hunters firing multiple shots at a bull moose from a long distance, the hunters said they thought the moose was an elk. Investigators did not find any blood, and the moose is not believed to have been hit.
The illegal shootings take a toll on southwest Idaho's already-small moose population, officials say.
"The Southwest Region has a low density of moose," said Hollie Miyasaki, a moose biologist with Fish and Game. "Illegally killing three moose in an area where we don't have a large enough population to have a hunt could have a negative impact on this population of moose."
Hunters have an obligation to be 100% sure what kind of animal they are shooting at before pulling the trigger, Fish and Game says, and anyone headed out on a hunt should make certain they can distinguish between different types of big game.
Elk can be light brown to reddish tan depending on the season, with buff-colored rumps and a dark brown, shaggy mane from the neck to the chest in winter. Moose are dark brown with grayish legs, a large, overhanging snout and a dewlap on the throat.
"It's a pretty simple principle, and it's one of the first things you are taught in hunter education: If there is any doubt at all, you should never take that shot," Haynes said. "There is no excuse for shooting the wrong animal."
Anyone with information about the moose poached west of Smiths Ferry is urged to call Citizens Against Poaching at 1-800-632-5999 or Officer Chris Rowley at 208-630-4341.