Park rangers are hoping the public can help locate the man who shot a friendly coyote in late October near the entrance station.
Gary Hasty, superintendent, said he and park ranger Wesley Burnham searched the monument and a large area around it to no avail after visitors reported seeing a coyote killed Oct. 24.Hasty said two visitors from California reported the coyote was killed while they were photographing it. Rangers believe it is the animal they named "Zeke" in honor of the monument's first custodian, Zeke Johnson.
Poaching incidents are reported every year at the monument during the hunting season. What made this incident different was that the poacher took an animal that had become somewhat of a mascot to the rangers.
The coyote had grown accustomed to people over the three years it hung around the park's residence area, often appearing in broad daylight at the visitor center or walking through the campground. His howling at night or sunrise was commonplace, and he was an easy subject for visitors to photograph, Hasty said.
Zeke had grown adept at finding food where humans were, said park ranger Kevin Emmerich.
"Zeke would often stay outside our back doors, toward the end," Emmerich said. "He got very friendly. He'd often visit us in the fee booth. He got real used to us.
"He had no fear of people, and we were all really bummed out when the poacher killed him."
He said everyone knew it was Zeke the poacher got because the coyote never came around again.
Emmerich said Zeke was such a timid creature, except around humans, that even a house cat could frighten him.
In September, Zeke encountered "Li'l Bit," a small, declawed Siamese cat a new resident brought to the park. "He met her outside in back and was just looking at her," Emmerich recalled. "I was ready to go outside and and save her because I thought he'd tear her apart, but the next thing I knew, he was running away from her.
"The most memorable thing about him was he was kind of an incompetent coyote," Emmerich said.
According to the incident report, the killing occurred near the entrance station. Witnesses said a man and woman drove up in a white-and-red Ford Bronco with silver trim, they stopped, and the man got out and shot the animal.
Witnesses said the suspect was a white male with brown hair and a mustache, probably about 30 years old, 6 feet tall and 165 pounds. He was wearing a red hat, yellow jacket and blue jeans. Hasty said the witnesses remembered only that the passenger was a blonde with curly hair and wearing a blue jacket.
Hasty said the visitors confronted the suspect but were ignored. The man then picked up the dead animal, put it in the vehicle and left the park, the witnesses said.
"He apparently left fairly quickly," Hasty said. "We scoured the area pretty fast and didn't find anybody."
Unfortunately, Hasty said, the witnesses knew only that the vehicle bore Utah license plates. They did not get the plate number.
Hasty said he was particularly upset by the poacher's obvious disregard for "No Hunting" signs and the safety of other visitors.
"You can draw a straight line from the entrance sign to the Visitor Center, so if the bullet had missed, it would've hit the Visitor Center," Hasty said.
Because the gunman was not wearing hunter orange or regular hunter's garb and whisked the animal away, Hasty suspects he may have been a pelt hunter.