Last Thursday, an employee at Denali National Park made a disturbing discovery while driving to the site of the landslide on the Park Road.
He saw trash scattered near a turnout at Mile 7 and stopped to investigate. What he found has Park staff baffled, including Park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri.
“There was evidence that a visitor had a small campfire,” Gualtieri said. “On investigation and looking into it, they found a few boxes from Petco and found that multiple small pets had been cooked in that campfire.”
Gualtieri says that remains of a snake and rodents were found near the fire, along with a box containing a turtle. The turtle had been exposed to freezing temperatures overnight, and was believed to have died.
Boxes and a receipt indicated that the animals had been purchased at Petco in Fairbanks. The National Park Service has been working with Petco to try to identify the person who bought the animals, but Maureen Gualtieri says no leads have turned up, yet.
“When you buy pets at a store like Petco, you fill out pet ownership paperwork, and the names on that were all fictitious names,” Gualtieri said. “There was some surveillance tape, but [it’s] very difficult to make out what the individual looks like.”
Staff at the Fairbanks Petco say that they are not authorized to release information, since the investigation is ongoing.
Maureen Gualtieri says that the National Park Service is conducting an investigation, and anyone with information is encouraged to contact them.
There is at least one bright spot to the story, however.
The turtle that was discovered did not die from the cold, as was originally thought. Park rangers were able to warm it up and revive it. It now lives with a family in Healy who have named it Lucky.