Boulder elk shooting: Suspended cop has taxidermy business

Update: The shooting of an elk in Boulder by an on-duty police officer has stirred controversy and prompted a candlelight vigil; get more information from our previous coverage, on view below. The latest developments: Boulder police chief Mark Beckner addressed concerned community members at a meeting shortly before news broke that one of the officers on administrative leave over the incident runs a taxidermy business.

Around 11 p.m. on New Year's Day, Boulder police officer Sam Carter shot and killed an elk that's lived peacefully in the Mapleton neighborhood for the past several years, allegedly because it had a broken antler and seemed to be limping. Carter is then said to have called fellow officer Brent Curnow to the scene, where assorted photos with the felled animal were snapped. However, the shooting wasn't reported, and the elk was allegedly taken to Curnow's home to be processed for meat.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Curnow may have had a professional interest in the kill. He's the registered owner and listed contact for Buffalo Peaks Taxidermy, which touts "quality taxidermy at an affordable price" on its website. Here's a screen capture from the site:

Curnow also called in sick the night the elk was killed.

This news was not yet out when Police Chief Beckner met with more than fifty members of the community concerned about the elk's shooting. He provided details about the investigatory process being undertaken by the Boulder Police Department and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and stressed that if information surfaces implicating the officers in illegal activities that rise to the level of firing offenses, they will indeed be dismissed.

After the meeting with Beckner, the Justice for the Mapleton Elk Facebook page posted an item that poses the following question: "So you've had a vigil and a meeting with the chief. What's the next move?"

Here's a sampling of the answers:

GO NATIONAL -- It's all about social media. Hire a bright youngster who has the skills to kickstart the social media campaign to keep the pressure on, publicize the NO Hunting yard sign campaign, Get on Colbert Report, Brian Williams NBC Nightly News, Bloggers. Get Wayne Pacelle HSUS involved , PETA , and have a quick fundraiser to get someone going to direct this....

Keep the pressure on, if it appears that interest is waning they will back off the investigation.

Return the carcass, cremate him, spread the ashes and put up a memorial. Make the police pay for it all with the $10,000 poaching fine.

Hire a lawyer, class action suit.

Here's a video from the Beckner meeting, courtesy of the Daily Camera. That's followed by our earlier post.

Continue for more about the Mapleton elk shooting, including photos and multiple videos. Original post, 6:09 a.m. January 7: Never underestimate passions stirred by the death of an animal. Example: The shooting death of an elk well known to residents of Boulder's Mapleton neighborhood. Since the creature was killed on New Year's Day by an on-duty police officer later seen posing for a snapshot with the carcass (see it here), anger over the incident has led to the creation of a Facebook page devoted to the case, as well as a weekend vigil featured among the videos below.

At about 11 p.m. this past Tuesday, as our Sam Levin has reported, an officer later identified as Sam Carter, a five-year veteran of the Boulder Police Department, shot the elk , known by some residents as Big Boy, allegedly because one of its antlers was broken off and it was limping -- claims disputed by at least one neighbor. However, neither Carter nor fellow officer Brent Curnow, a thirteen-year BPD member called to the scene by Carter, reported the incident at the time. Moreover, a photo of Carter posing with the elk like a trophy subsequently surfaced. Here's how it looked in the Boulder Daily Camera:

Adding to the ire felt by locals with affectionate feelings for the elk, which was seen regularly throughout the area for the past several years, was a BPD release confirming that the elk's body was taken to Curnow's home for processing as meat.

On Friday, as questions about the shooting continued to grow, Carter and Curnow were placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation, and BPD chief Mark Beckner wrote a letter to the community explaining the process; see it below in its entirety. However, his words did placate visitors to Justice for the Mapleton Elk, a Facebook page that's garnered more than 600 likes at this writing. Here are two comments on a link about the letter:

'Paid leave' so will they have to repay the city for that time if convicted? Why not unpaid leave and IF they are not convicted they can collect?
I bet ya Chief Beckner is working so very hard to protect His BOULDER Barney Fife who was just itching to take down this beautiful animal as a CONQUEST to satisfy his EGO! NOW, Barney gets a paid VACATION at the Boulder taxpayers expense...HUMMMMM...Nice job if you can get it.
Continue to read more about the latest developments in the Boulder elk shooting. Yesterday, a full page ad appeared in the Daily Camera on the topic of the elk's shooting. As you can see in the image below, it asks a single question: Why?

The weekend was also marked by a candlelight vigil for the elk. Here's a video from the scene:

Also online is footage of the elk idly munching some greenery:

Accompanying this clip is a long post decrying the killing. Here's an excerpt:

This video was shot on December 23rd. I had two dogs with me while shooting this video. Does this animal look aggressive to you? Is he making aggressive gestures towards me and my dogs? While this video was being filmed, I was waiting for the Boulder Police to arrive. My neighbor had called as we were concerned about the animal and the only way to reach Boulder Animal Control after hours is through Boulder Police Department Dispatch. I waited for over an hour with this animal. He didn't once make any gesture of aggression towards me or any of the many people on the sidewalk walking back to their cars on Pearl Street. The police never arrived. In the week after this incident, the police still refused to get help for this animal, contact the appropriate wildlife officials or relocate him somewhere safe. Within a week, this elk was shot by the very people we naively contacted for help. Sadly, our concerned calls to the police department were used to track and illegally kill this gorgeous creature. I should add here...this elk never did walk into the street. He walked on the sidewalk, down the north side of Pearl from 5th. As he had lived down here for some time, he seemed to have some idea about how to avoid traffic.
Beckner is slated to meet with members of the community today about the elk's death. Here's guessing that those attending won't be satisfied with platitudes.

Continue to see Beckner's letter to the community and photos of the vigil from the aforementioned Facebook page. Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner letter about the elk shooting:
Dear Members of the Public,

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.


Two Boulder police officers were involved; one was on duty and the other was off duty. According to the on-duty officer, he was patrolling the Mapleton Hill area when he saw the elk. He said the elk was limping and that it appeared to be injured. In his judgment, he believed the elk needed to be humanely euthanized. The officer dispatched the elk with one shot from his shotgun and called another off-duty officer to come pick up the elk carcass. The off-duty officer took the elk in his own vehicle to process the meat for personal use.


The first investigation is a criminal investigation which is being conducted by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (CDPW). The CDPW's investigation will focus on whether a crime was committed by the officers. The Boulder Police Department is cooperating fully with wildlife officials and cannot comment on the agency's investigation. Questions should be directed to CDPW.

The second investigation is an internal personnel investigation being conducted by the Boulder Police Department's Professional Standards Unit (internal affairs). This type of investigation is standard procedure when an officer is accused of wrongdoing or of not following policies. In this case it appears that the officers involved did not follow standard procedures in alerting police dispatch, contacting a supervisor about how to deal with the injured elk or following up with a written incident report. We will also be awaiting the outcome of the criminal investigation before reaching any conclusions. This could take several weeks to complete.

Both officers are entitled to due process in the course of the investigation, which is required by contract and policy. Once the internal investigation is completed, the information is forwarded to the employee's chain of command for review and recommendations to the Chief of Police. After this review, the report is reviewed by a panel made up of both citizens and sworn officers who also make recommendations to the Chief. The Chief of Police will make the final decision as to the disposition of the case and whether disciplinary measures may be appropriate.

The Boulder Police Department conducts thorough personnel investigations, and they can take several weeks to complete.

We appreciate your concern about this matter and can assure you that it is receiving serious attention and investigation as outlined above.

Very truly,

Mark Beckner, Chief of Police

More from our News archive: "Boulder police apologize for 'confusion' over a bull elk shot by an officer."

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