As reported earlier this month, two cow elk were shot and killed in the city-owned Round Valley open space the last weekend in December. Park City Police and the Division of Wildlife Resources have determined both incidents occurred on city property.
The Division of Wildlife Resources issued 40 elk tags for the Salt Lake/Wasatch hunting unit which includes the Round Valley property. According to the Summit Land Conservancy’s Land Protection Specialist, Brett Denny, it is illegal to hunt within city owned property. All the trail heads have clearly displayed signs prohibiting hunting and it’s the responsibility of every hunter to know where it is legal to hunt.
“When the DWR issues a tag, it’s for a large, hundreds of thousands of acres of massive units, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all of that unit is huntable. Private lands and municipalities like Park City, where discharging a firearm is not permitted, are areas that you are still not allowed to hunt, if you have a tag for that larger unit.”
One witness observed people dragging an elk out of Round Valley on December 28th. A gut pile was found on the city owned property near a residence. Another elk carcass was discovered on December 29th on a popular hiking trail, also within city owned property. It had been shot and left on the trail. Denny thinks the people who shot the animal were aware that they were breaking the law by hunting in Round Valley. He says multiple charges could be brought.
“It seems pretty clear that since an elk was left out in the field that they likely knew that they were in the wrong. There is no discharging of a firearm allowed in that area and then there's also the consideration of wanton waste laws so the elk that was left out there, that was a violation of Utah hunting code, that you can't leave game in the field.”
Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director Cheryl Fox says there are serious conflicts which could occur if hunters are shooting in the popular recreation area. All the trail heads into Round Valley are clearly signed prohibiting hunting on city property. “There are a lot of responsible hunters out there who take the time to figure out where they are permitted and not permitted to go and most of them are responsible.”
There are incentives the DWR offers to fellow hunters to report violations they see while they are out in the field. Fox says it comes down to individual responsibility. She says she has talked with people who used to hunt in Round Valley before there were so many people recreating in the area.
"Hunters are largely required to know where they can go. It becomes an issue of sort of conflicting jurisdictions and I think that probably worked when there were only about 1 million people living in Utah but there are a lot more of us here now.”
The Park City Police and the DWR are interested in hearing from anyone who might have heard or seen activity related to the dead elk. Denny encourages people involved to turn themselves in saying the DWR officers realize people make mistakes.
“Typically when hunting violation laws are prosecuted, the people that come forward and say, hey I was in the wrong here, I didn't realize this was an area where you couldn't hunt, and come forward and be honest about it, those people usually get reduced charges and will have a much easier time dealing with the consequences.”
Park City Attorney, Mark Harrington told KPCW he could not comment on the jurisdictional and legal issues of the hunting incident in Round Valley, nor could he say if they have identified any suspects in the case.