A 14-year-old girl from Missouri received harsh backlash from the online community for shooting an elk she mistook for a white-tailed deer. Conservation officials have yet to take action against the teen.
Abby Wilson took the animal out with a single shot on Nov. 11, USA Today reports. In excitement, she texted her dad to come see it. Upon realizing his daughter's mistake, he immediately contacted the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The regional MDC agent for Boone County, Adam Doerhoff, didn't initially think the girl had actually shot an elk, but that the father had misidentified it.
"The dad sent me a photo to my phone and it was very clear that, yes, that's an elk," said Doerhoff. "You don't expect to see something like that. I've learned to never say never."
Missouri doesn't have a hunting season or specific hunting codes for elk, rendering it illegal by default.
The number of elk in Boone County is unknown. A number of elk were reintroduced to Peck Ranch Conservation Area in 2011, but that herd is more than 200 miles away.
"There are no reports of elk in this area," said Tom Strother, the MDC's protection regional supervisor. "It was kind of a surprise to us. There was no evidence of any ear tags or collars on this one."
Investigators are still looking at where the elk came from and whether it was disease-free, in which case the meat might be donated.
It doesn't seem likely that the MDC will take any action against Abby or her family.
"She saw antlers, she saw the body," said Strother. "She thought it was a deer and took the shot."
Strother added that Abby had passed a hunter education course and was legally allowed to hunt.
"This young girl probably had never seen an elk in the wild before," he continued. "The dad certainly did the right thing by immediately calling us."
Some people on social media have reacted harshly against the young girl.
"There's no sense in it, people doing that," said the father, Donald White. "Don't come at my daughter saying lock her away. Wow. If my daughter gets fined, I'll pay it and move on. So be it. We'll deal with it."
White condemned the "hatred" his daughter has received in a statement to Fox News:
Everyone is a keyboard hero these days. Seventy-five percent of people would've said nothing at all and left the elk. Or they would've took it home. And the conservation would never knew. When I put my post up on Facebook yes I was a excited Dad. And also I wanted to make people aware that there is elk in northern Missouri.
White said he'd like to keep the antlers, but that he's also okay with giving them away to help people differentiate between an elk and a deer.
"The big thing is to know your target and make sure you know it's a legal deer," said Strother to USA Today. "You want to positively ID the animal you're going to shoot, but also know what's beyond your target -- a tractor, a house or other hunters."