- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A Utah man who worked as a big-game hunting guide in New Zealand was arrested after authorities accused him of killing a trophy elk illegally in Nevada last summer, cutting off its head and leaving the rest of the carcass to waste.

Game wardens in Nevada and Utah invested several hundred hours in what they compared to a homicide investigation leading to Saturday’s arrest of Zackry Holdaway, 26, of Cedar City, Utah.

“This is an egregious waste of Nevada’s wildlife,” Chief Nevada Game Warden Tyler Turnipseed said Wednesday.

Holdaway could face tens of thousands of dollars in penalties if convicted of poaching-related charges in the 2015 incident near Pioche, 180 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The counts include big game poaching, possession of an illegally killed big game animal, and trespassing and wanton waste of a game animal.

Big game poaching is a felony punishable by up to four years in jail, but jail sentences typically are suspended for a first offense, Lyngar said.

Holdaway was released Monday from Iron County jail after a family member posted the $10,400 bail in Lincoln County, Nevada, where he’s scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 2, said Ed Lyngar, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

“We don’t have to worry about extradition,” Lyngar said. “If he doesn’t show up, he forfeits the bail.”

Efforts to reach Holdaway were not immediately successful. A spokeswoman for the justice court in Pioche said they had no listing of a lawyer representing him.

Holdaway’s Facebook account indicated he started working in February for an outfitter in New Zealand, and Lyngar said investigators used his Instagram account to track him.

“We knew he was in New Zealand and wanted to wait until he was back in the country to make the case,” Lyngar said. “We view big-game poaching as our biggest crime, like a homicide. You can imagine trying to solve a homicide with no witnesses and very little physical evidence in the middle of the desert.”

Investigators had little to go on until a local rancher came forward with grainy, nighttime images from a trail camera of two people in an off-road vehicle, Lyngar said.

“It was near happenstance,” he said. “It allowed us to nail down the exact time it happened.”

All but one of the charges carries an automatic revocation of hunting privileges and likely forfeiture of weapons or equipment used in the crime.

“The suspect knew better. It was not an accident,” Lyngar said. “And on top of it all, he took the head and left the entire animal - hundreds of pounds of meat - to waste.”

Public support during the investigation shows people take wildlife crimes more seriously than they used to, Lyngar said.

“The sporting public is outraged. The non-sporting public is outraged,” he said. “I grew up in Nevada and in the old days, it wasn’t always like that.”

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