In a formal police interview on Monday, the man admitted to shooting an elk inside an enclosure, a crime which carries a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment.
“The hunter acknowledges that he is guilty of violating of the Wildlife Act in that he shot an elk standing inside the enclosure,” Katrine Grimnes, police superintendent with the police in Målselv, told NRK.
“He also acknowledges that he may have caused the bullet wounds suffered by the calf, which later had to be euthanized. But he said that he had not at any time seen the calf.”
Grimnes said that the forensic veterinary report backed up this claim, with the bullet appearing to have passed through the body of the bull elk and then on into the calf.
She said that a police visit to the site of the accident backed up the hunter’s claim that the fence was not easy to see.
“We’ve even been on site and we also see that it can be hard to spot the fence, which is partially hidden by vegetation,” Grimnes said.
Heinz Strathmann, the chief executive of Polar Park, told The Local that while he accepted the shooting had been an accident, he struggled to see the hunter as completely blameless.
"What I know is that the fence is a metal fence and it’s four metres high. If you couldn’t see it, there must have been a lot of trees, and if there are a lot of trees you shouldn’t shoot," he said. "I’m a hunter myself and I don’t shoot if there are a lot of trees."
He said that the adult elk, which was born in the park, had been one and a half years old, while the calf was born in the spring.
"We were at first very surprised, and we are sad about it, of course," he said. "The animals we have, we know them closely and we have a relationship with them. If you lose two of your close animals you are more than sad."
But he said the zoo was not concerned about whether the hunter was punished.
"My first thoughts were not about revenge. The police are handling the case, and if they find out that he’s done something illegal, they will probably give him quite a fine, but that's not my main concern. My main concern is that two of our animals died in a tragic accident. I don’t think this was done intentionally."