A Missouri teen who mistakenly shot a protected elk has been getting bullied by users online, her dad said.
Abby Wilson, 14, reportedly shot an elk that she mistook for a deer during a hunting trip with her father on Nov. 11, according to The Kansas City Star. The father and daughter were hunting legally during Missouri's deer season, but elk are protected in the area.
The teen's dad, Don White, said he contacted the Missouri Department of Conservation after inspecting the animal's body.
"We think we just shot an elk," he told them.
It's unusual that the elk was in Boone County, around 200 miles from where a wild elk herd has been reintroduced in Carter and Shannon counties.
Even conservation agent Adam Doerhoff was doubtful about the elk until White sent him picture proof.
"The dad sent me a photo to my phone and it was very clear that, yes, that's an elk," said Doerhoff, reports the Springfield News-Leader. "You don't expect to see something like that. I've learned to never say never."
"To see one in Boone County is out of the ordinary," said the conservation department's spokesman, Robert Hemmelgarn.
"She saw antlers, she saw the body. She thought it was a deer and took the shot," said the department's regional supervisor, Tom Strother. "This young girl probably had never seen an elk in the wild before. The dad certainly did the right thing by immediately calling us."
Since their story circulated around the internet, White said that his daughter has faced criticism from groups online.
A Facebook group called "STOP Trophy Hunting NOW" posted about the story, saying, "Idiots and their offspring with guns in the woods, don't even know what they are shooting at."
"Don't come at my daughter saying lock her away," argued White. "Wow. If my daughter gets fined, I'll pay it and move on. So be it. We'll deal with it."
White added that he hoped conservation officials would allow him and his daughter to keep the animal's meat and antlers.
"I'd make sure everybody around my family would have some of that," White said.
Strother said that staff told White that "no parts of the elk will be returned to him or the family." The meat may be donated to needy families if it is found to be free of disease.
Users online debated whether the girl should be punished for the elk's death, according to a post on WXIA's Facebook page.
"The elk is a protected species. As there is no elk season, shooting it is illegal. Age or ignorance is not a defense for breaking the law. She made a mistake, there are consequences," argued one user. "The fact the dad asked to get the trophies from this animal is just really in poor taste. Your daughter illegally shot a protected elk, no you do not get the trophies from an illegal action. She shouldn't go to jail but if there is a fine it is definitely justified."
"She’s 14. She’s learning still. Her dad did the right thing in calling immediately however," said another commenter. "The elk had no tag and they even said they didn't have any reports of elk in the area so it was odd to even see one out there."
Sources: Kansas City Star, Springfield News-Leader via USA Today (2), Alive/Facebook / Featured Image: tpeters11/Flickr / Embedded Images: Belleville News-Democrat via Kansas City Star, Roderick Eime/Flickr