State game wardens are trying to track down whoever is responsible for killing four Roosevelt elk near the town of Arcata in Humboldt County.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says that on Dec. 9, game wardens found four female elk, including one that was pregnant, that had been shot with firearms near the community of Blue Lake, about 5 miles east of Arcata.
It's at least the second time this fall that animals from North Coast Roosevelt elk herds have been killed by poachers. In October, Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service asked for help in finding those responsible for killing an elk bull in Redwood National Park with a bow and arrow. So far, that crime has gone unsolved.
Before white settlement of the West Coast, Roosevelt elk once were found from southwestern British Columbia all the way south to Sonoma County. About 500,000 elk -- including the more familiar tule elk -- were found in what is now California.
But like many other native species devastated in the wake of the Gold Rush, Roosevelt elk were pushed to near extinction by hunting and destruction of habitat. By 1925, just 15 of the large mammals remained in California. Protections imposed since then have allowed the Roosevelt elk herd to recover somewhat, and the state now estimates it at 5,700 -- all in Humboldt, Del Norte and western Siskiyou counties.