Three more elk have been found shot by poachers near Port Alberni, B.C., since the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council first offered a $25,000 reward for their arrest last week, the B.C. Environment Ministry has confirmed.
Conservation officials on Vancouver Island say there are now 11 elk confirmed dead in the Alberni area. That's up from the eight animals reported illegally killed last week by the conservation office and First Nations officials.
Reports had circulated over the weekend that an additional five animals had been killed, but conservation officer Sgt. Ben York says that's not the case.
"Some of the tips we're getting are for animals that we hadn't heard about before, but they're old, they're unconfirmed and we don't really know whether they actually exist. It's just that we're getting lots and lots of tips, and for all we know people are just reporting the same thing over and over again.
On Tuesday, the tribal council, made up of 14 First Nations, offered the money in the hope of securing the conviction of those responsible for killing eight elk.
Larry Johnson, director of lands and natural resources for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, says he's angry about the slaughter of a scarce animal that he's never been allowed to hunt.
The band had transplanted and protected the stock in the mid-1990s, and it had grown to the point where the bands would have been able to harvest one of the animals.
Johnson says the tips have poured in since the reward was announced, and he's convinced the poachers will eventually be caught.
"Because I think it's more than one group, due to the tips that are coming in, and it's because the unprecedented amount of money that's being offered here."
Expert hunters suspected
Johnson believes the poachers are experienced hunters because they are quickly able to cut off the best cuts of meat.
"These are like expert people who know what they're doing, because they aren't cleaning them like you would if you were on a normal hunt. It's like they know how to dislocate and pull off a hind quarter in seconds, minutes."
"All they're doing is making a couple of quick incisions, cutting the leg through the cartilage and where the ball joint is, one simple snip there, and the hind quarter is off."
He said in most of the recent cases the poachers have taken about 25 per cent of the meat and left the rest behind.
"A lot more people could have been fed with it. These people are taking it, selling it, something like that."
In some of the previous cases the entire animal was left in the bushes.
Johnson says it was likely the poachers were interrupted or saw a vehicle coming.
Chief Jeff Cook of the Huu-ay-aht Nation told a news conference on Tuesday that the nation is opposed to the killing of elk for sport or fun and the fact that much of the animals were left behind troubles them.