Colorado Parks and Wildlife is investigating eight suspected poaching cases within Game Management Unit 70 in San Miguel County.
Three cases of suspected poaching of a mule deer buck occurred within Dry Creek Basin. Two bull elk were discovered at the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area south of Norwood, and another bull elk and two cow elk were also shot and left to waste in the Callan Draw area southwest of Norwood.
"All of these animals were found shot and left to waste. This is an egregious violation of Colorado's laws surrounding hunting and fishing, which require hunters to prepare game meat for human consumption," said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla.
The incidents have all occurred between October 30 and November 15.
"In any activity that people enjoy, most of the time things go well and the participants behave in the appropriate legal, moral and ethical manner," said CPW District Wildlife Manager Mark Caddy. "Sometimes, however, there are one or two people who show up and act in a manner that no one inside or outside of the activity can condone. Evidently, these types of individuals showed up in GMU 70 during the recent hunting seasons."
Here's a detailed look at each suspected poaching case being investigated:
- A small buck was shot and left Oct. 30 in the higher elevations of Dry Creek Basin. While CPW officers were investigating this animal, other hunters stopped the officers and reported another small buck that had been shot and left less than a mile away. These animals were within easy walking distance of the road and had received wounds that were instantly fatal. Caddy said there was no apparent reason an ethical hunter would not have retrieved and tagged these deer and properly harvested the meat.
- Hunters reported another mule deer buck that had been shot and left in Dry Creek Basin on the last day of the second rifle season, Nov. 6. Officers investigated the carcass and determined that the wound was instantly fatal and the deer had likely been shot that same day. The deer was within easy walking distance of the road. There was no apparent reason an ethical hunter would have abandoned this animal, Caddy said.
- While investigating the Nov. 6 case in Dry Creek Basin, CPW District Wildlife Manager Tony Bonacquista received a call from hunters reporting two bull elk had been shot and left on the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area approximately 14 miles southwest of Norwood. Investigating the bulls, CPW officers determined that these were legal bulls based upon the antler point restriction, and that the wounds were instantly fatal. These animals were approximately 400 yards from a main road in open country. There is no apparent reason an ethical hunter could not have retrieved these animals, Caddy said.
- On Nov. 17, hunters in the field reported a spike bull elk being shot and left in the Callan Draw area southwest of Norwood. Upon investigation, it was found that in addition to the spike bull, two cow elk had also been killed. While it appears the parties associated with this incident initially attempted to retrieve the cow elk as is required by law, they later abandoned the carcasses and some equipment utilized in the attempted retrieval. It was determined these elk were likely killed Nov. 15 or 16.
Evidence was collected at each one of these incidents that is being used to continue the investigation.
CPW is asking the public for assistance in solving these crimes. If you were in the areas described and have any information regarding these incidents, call Caddy at 970-209-2368 or Bonacquista at 970-209-2374.
Operation Game Thief is a Colorado Parks and Wildlife program that pays rewards to citizens who turn in poachers. A citizens committee administers reward funds in many poaching cases, which is maintained by private contributions. The board may approve rewards of up to $1,000 for flagrant cases.
Poaching is a serious and costly crime. It robs legitimate sportspeople of game and fish, robs businesses and taxpayers of revenues generated by hunting and fishing, and robs all of us of a valuable natural resource that makes Colorado so special: our wildlife.
Sralla said waste of wildlife is an especially troublesome crime to ethical hunters, who take care and pride in preparing their meat to take home.
"The initial information on each animal in these cases came from hunters in the field who took the time to call and report that something was going on," Caddy said. "These ethical hunters are as concerned about this happening as we are."