The January 20-22 government shutdown was brief, but Zion National Park had its share of law enforcement challenges.

Zion National Park Chief Ranger Daniel Fagergren said the National Park Service did have a skeleton crew of 30 employees on duty during the shutdown, and that included a full law enforcement staff. But with the reduced operations, such as no shuttle service, there weren’t as many people observing and reporting things.

“Our eyes and ears weren’t in place,” said Fagergren. “The shuttle drivers are especially good about telling us when they see someone doing something wrong. Without those tips, it was just what we saw and heard.”

The National Park Service, in conjunction with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, is still seeking information about the poaching of a pregnant cow elk within Zion National Park during the shutdown. It was estimated the animal was killed sometime on or about Saturday, January 20. The gut pile and partial hide were found in Lee Valley off the Kolob Terrace Road in Zion National Park.

Evidence was collected at the scene, but help from the public will play a crucial role in finding those responsible. “We haven’t caught the person who did this yet,” updated Fagergren, saying they are investigating all leads. Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to call or text the NPS Investigative Services Branch tip line at (888)653-0009, or e-mail nps_isb@nps.gov. You can also submit a tip online at www.nps.gov/isb and click on “Submit a Tip.” Up to $1,500 is being offered in this case for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the violator(s).

Unfortunately, there were other incidences of people taking advantage of the reduced NPS staff and committing illegal acts during the shutdown.

Fagergren said perhaps the most dangerous was when two individuals snuck in and base-jumped. “That’s not only illegal, it’s got a very high fatality rate. They left the park in vehicles before we could catch them.”

While NPS law enforcement dealt with a number of lesser infractions, the one perhaps most bizarre was someone built a campfire, probably also on January 20, along the paved path by the river. “You’d think someone would have seen an active fire,” said Fagergren.

But while frustrated, the Chief Ranger had strong praise for sheriffs of adjoining counties – Kane and Washington. He said both Sheriff Glover and Sheriff Pulsifer offered back-up if needed. “They were great to work with,” said Fagergren. “They were very supportive and offered their assistance.”

He said search and rescue is a specific need during a shutdown, because a lot of the park’s own S&R members had other jobs and were considered non-essential.

In the event of another February 8 shutdown, Fagergren said the operational plan will be very similar. “It’ll perhaps be a little easier because we’ll know more what to expect. But it’s a little hard on everyone’s morale.”