Originally published Monday, September 23, 2019 at 07:28p.m.

Manmade wildlife watering troughs are important, and in times like now when not much rain has fallen, they are absolutely needed by wildlife.

So why would a person or persons deliberately pour poisonous diesel fuel in a critical water development for wildlife in northern Arizona?

That’s a question that Arizona Elk Society Executive Director Steve Clark and many sportsmen are asking today.

On Sept. 15, just two days after the archery elk hunt in Game Management Unit 7E opened, a pair of hunters came upon wildlife water near Winona, which is located 20 miles east of Flagstaff.

The water, which is critical for wildlife in the area, including elk, deer and predators, smelled of diesel fuel. The hunters found several dead small animals in the water, including some song birds that had apparently ingested the water.

The hunters reported what they had found and the Arizona Elk Society immediately stepped up to resolve the issue and get life giving water back out for wildlife.

Clark said that the water is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and holds around 2,000 gallons of water.

“We had to get permission to get this water cleaned out,” Clark said. Once permission was received volunteers and staff from AES went to work.

AES contracted with 310 Dust Control from New River to drain and clean the polluted tank.

“There was about 1,800 gallons of water in the tank that had to be drained into special containers and hauled away to be disposed of at a hazmat site,” Clark said. “This was a hazmat issue.”

Those efforts cost a lot of money and time; money furnished by the AES and time by AES volunteers who stood by to refill the tank. There was also the time for members of the company that drained and cleaned the drinker and made it safe for wildlife to water there again.

The vandals made sure that they covered their tracks by destroying several game cameras in the area that could have possibly identified the culprits.

Clark said that the clean water is flowing again in the drinker, and that AES is offering a reward of $2,500 for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for this criminal act.

So who are the thoughtless criminals who did this? Clark doesn’t know but said there are possible theories.

But if those persons are caught and convicted, they could face a slew of criminal charges, and fines and jail time.