ADAIR COUNTY, Oklahoma - Someone illegally killed a bull elk in Adair County over the weekend. The animal was poached on the Cookson Wildlife Management Area near Bunch.

There are 15,000 acres on the area, with a small population of elk. With rolling hills, the views at Cookson WMA are some you can't find just anywhere in Oklahoma. It’s also home to some wildlife that many don’t realize are in the state.

“We've got good population of deer, we've got wild turkey, some black bear and we have a resident population of elk out here,” wildlife biologist Curt Allen said.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife said elk are in 30 of the state’s 77 counties. Allen said only 70 to 80 elk live on public land at Cookson; it’s a number he works hard to maintain.

“Our population is a small, finite population, and it really takes specific management to keep it regulated and in a healthy state,” Allen said.

Poachers do not fit into that plan. Game warden Jared Cramer said the evening of Saturday, November 7, someone illegally killed a mature bull elk on the Cookson WMA.

“They actually shot it and slit its throat to finish it off,” Cramer said. “They ended up butchering it right there on the spot.”

The poachers took a small amount of meat, then, sawed off the antlers.

“Personally, as a hunter, that's just really aggravating and heartbreaking at the same time that someone would let an animal like that go to waste,” Allen said.

There is an elk season in Oklahoma, but only in certain areas.

At Cookson, one elk can be harvested each year during a controlled hunt, but the hunter must draw out in a lottery-type process. Allen said taking more than one elk out of the herd can be a setback.

“They don't have really high reproduction rates here in the Cookson Hills, so that one bull is significant,” Allen said. “Not only is it impacting our management, but it's also taking away a legal opportunity for a hunter to harvest that animal and just opportunity for the men and women of Oklahoma to come out and enjoy this resource that we have out here.”

“Most all of our sportsman, they respect our wildlife and they do things right because they understand how we got to the point of having the great wildlife benefits in Oklahoma we have and what's necessary to keep that,” Cramer said.

Cramer is using social media and media, hoping someone will see the story and do the right thing - report the crime and help catch the poacher.

“We really hope the public would come forward. They're our best tool to make successful cases,” Cramer said.

The game warden said the poachers would face a $2,500 fine at the very least. There's also a $500 reward being offered for any information that leads the arrest and conviction of the poacher.

Anyone can report information anonymously through the Wildlife Department’s Operation Game Thief (800)-522-8039. Or by calling Game Warden Jared Cramer (918) 431-2546.