The trophy-size bull elk that rambled across the Ellis County countryside has met an untimely demise.

Exactly what caused the death of the elk is uncertain, but the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks would like to know.

"We don't know," KDWP Capt. Mel Madorin said of the reason for the animal's death, which had been rousted from its resting spot in a milo field on the northeast edge of Hays in mid-November when Jude Gottschalk and his crew started harvesting.

Several photographs of the animal were taken, and spread like wildfire through the community.

The elk was found dead last week about 6 miles north of Hays, on the west side of U.S. Highway 183.

There were not, however, any readily apparent injuries to suggest it had been hit by a vehicle, and there had been no reports of accidents with an animal.

"We're still working on it to try to find out what happened," Madorin said Wednesday, opening day of the state's firearms deer season.

There also were no immediate signs the animal had been killed by a gunshot.

"We checked the carcass over," he said of looking for obvious signs of an injury. "We're still trying to figure it out."

Madorin said KDWP law enforcement officers skinned back the hide to look for injuries, and cut the head and neck off the animal so that additional tests could be conducted.

Cutting the head off also removes the temptation for someone to stop by and cut off the massive antlers the animal was sporting.

Just last year, for example, another wandering elk was hit by a vehicle south of Hays. Someone ultimately stopped and cut off that elk's antlers, a violation of state law because no permit had been issued to salvage any part of the animal.

"It's definitely a nice size elk," Madorin said. "I would think most people would think this is a nice elk."

Madorin said the elk had been dead a while before it was discovered.

He'd also like to hear from anyone who might know what happened to it.

"I have officers that are investigating it," he said, but added that anyone with information can call him to provide any details they might have. "Any information would be appreciated."

Madorin can be reached at the KDWP regional office at (785) 628-8614.