PARADISE VALLEY, AZ - A young desert tortoise was found shot to death and Arizona Game and Fish Department officials are looking for its killer.
According to the department, the juvenile tortoise was believed to be killed around August 20 near the Beeline Highway approximately 15 miles north of Fountain Hills.
The tortoise, a protected species that was also being observed by Arizona Game and Fish as part of a research study, was located in the Game Management Unit 22. Biologists saw the tortoise alive on August 18, but found it dead on August 25. They believe it was killed a few days prior.
"The illegal killing of wildlife is always a concern, especially when that animal is non-threatening like the tortoise and it's part of a long-running research study," said Josh Hurst with Arizona Game and Fish.
The tortoise that was killed was part of a Sponsor-A-Turtle Program meaning that someone in the Valley was supporting the animal and research for tortoises.
It was also the second tortoise to have an affixed transmitter that allowed researchers to see some of the most helpful data in young tortoise movement.
The tortoises are currently being studied as part of a long-term project to help keep them off the federal Endangered Species List, Arizona Game and Fish says.
Anyone with information on who may have killed the tortoise is asked to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-352-0700 or online. When calling, refer to case #14-002388.
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information regarding the tortoise's killing.