LANCASTER — Calling it an act that even poachers would abhor, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who shot, killed and abandoned a moose in Stratford last month.

The moose cow, which appeared healthy and was nearly free of ticks, was found by a hunter at Sugarloaf Pond, on or about Oct. 20, which was the start of the state’s 2018 moose season, said Fish and Game Sgt. Glen Lucas on Thursday.

Lucas said the hunter saw crows, went to investigate, and found the moose dead from two gunshots, one to the chest that apparently came from a distance and one to the head from close range.

The hunter notified Fish and Game and while Conservation Officers quickly responded to the scene and found the carcass, they determined that because the moose had been dead for several days, the meat was unfit to recover.

The signature animal of the North Country, moose have been in trouble in recent years as their numbers have dwindled, in large part because of winter tick infestation. Instead of dying mid-winter, the ticks, thanks to milder winters, have been surviving longer on moose, draining the blood of adults and young alike.

The state has allowed the hunting of moose by permit since 1988 but this year, in a reflection of the fact that there are fewer moose out there, the number of permits issued by lottery was just 51.

The killing of the moose in Stratford has Lucas scratching his head.

“This is one of those things where there are a couple conundrums,” he said, the first and foremost of which is “why would you shoot a beautiful cow moose and leave it to rot? Even a poacher would be mad about this. There’s a code among poachers. There are certain things that aren’t acceptable and this crossed that line. This disgusts everybody, I think.”

Lucas isn’t sure whether somebody was out to “just shoot and kill or for the thrill of the hunt,” but regardless, “to just walk up and put it down and have complete disregard” for the ethics of hunting “is just baffling to me,” he said.

Although he declined to get into specifics of his investigation, Lucas thinks the shooter(s) may be a local or possibly a seasonal resident who has a camp near Sugarloaf Pond.

Located west of Nash Stream State Forest, Sugarloaf Pond is a bit off the beaten path, Lucas explained, “and unless you’re familiar with the area, you’re not going to know how to get there.”

A conservation officer for 11 years, Lucas said he is “open” to the possibility that whoever shot and killed the moose did so accidentally.

“Stuff happens, mistakes are made and when people make the right call,” and admit to wrongdoing, “mercy is given,” said Lucas, but no one has come forward yet.

Had the shooter done that, they likely would have only been fined and not lost their hunting license, while more importantly, “the moose meat would have gone to a family in need,” said Lucas.

When the shooter(s) is found, he or she faces “thousands of dollars in fines,” Lucas said, as well as restitution of $1,000 to the state for the loss of a resource. Apart from Fish and Game violations, that person could also face criminal charges.

Lucas asked anyone who has information about the moose shooting in Stratford to call him directly at (603) 419-0193.