Reward in tortoise shooting case increases to $2,300

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. -- A reward has increased to over $2,300 to help solve the killing of a desert tortoise.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking for the public's help to determine who shot a protected desert tortoise near the Beeline Highway, about 15 miles north of Fountain Hills.

Biologists found the female juvenile tortoise dead on Aug. 25 and believe she was killed around Aug. 20. Game and Fish officials said the tortoise had been shot at least four times.

Biologists had been tracking the tortoise since 2010 as part of a research study. She had a transmitter affixed and had provided some of the longest-running data to the project.

"The public outcry over this case is exactly what you’d expect when a non-threatening animal like a tortoise is shot multiple times and killed, and the years-long research study it was part of is compromised," said Josh Hurst, the Operation Game Thief coordinator for Game and Fish. "The department has been conducting research for years to monitor and conserve desert tortoises to help keep them off the federal Endangered Species List."

In addition to the $500 being offered through the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Operation Game Thief, private individuals and organizations, including the Arizona Herpetological Association, Desert Tortoise Council, Phoenix Herpetological Society, Sierra Club, Tucson Herpetological Society and Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group, have pledged and will reward an additional $1,850 in the event of a conviction.

Anyone with information about this killing can call the department's Operation Game Thief hotline toll-free at 1-800-352-0700 or visit www.azgfd.gov/thief and refer to case #14-002388. All calls may remain confidential upon request.

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