Hundreds turn out for candlelit vigil of DEAD ELK - as police suspend officer who shot it

Rebecca Lewis

Hundreds of well wishers attended a candlelit vigil for an elk shot dead in a residential area.

The bull elk, a regular visitor to Mapleton Hill in Boulder, Colorado, was shot dead on New Year's Day.

Mourners attended the vigil to pay respects to the large animal, whom they lovingly nicknamed "Big Boy".

They shared stories of the well-known creature and gathered around a memorial tree - a Christmas tree adorned with baubles and a framed picture of the elk.

The elk was aggressive at times but well loved in the community. His shooting has shocked local residents and mystery surrounds precisely how it died.

According to Boulder polic, an officer on patrol saw that it was injured and shot it. An off-duty officer, who had called in sick that night then took away the elk to process it for meat. Local media reported that the officer runs a website offering taxidermy services.

Neither officers filed a report of the shooting nor did they notify Colorado Parks and Wildlife, whom police would normally work with when they take down large animals.

A photograph of a police officer has emerged showing him posing with the dead elk.

Two Boulder police officers have been suspended on paid leave pending two investigations by the police department.

Local law prohibits hunting within city limits. There are also fines for the killing of trophy animals.

A Facebook group, 'Justice for Big Boy the Boulder Elk', has been set up in the wake of the shooting with over 700 members calling for answers regarding the incident.

In a public letter, chief of police Mark Beckner wrote: "We share your concern regarding the elk that was killed in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013.

"We take the situation very seriously and would like you to know that there are two separate investigations underway to determine the facts and details of this incident."