Colorado Wildlife Officials Report Increase in Illegal Poaching
Part of living in Colorado means respecting and co-existing with wildlife that's also present in the state. Whether it's stopping for geese as they slowly make their way across the street or watching from afar as a herd of elk peacefully grazes in a field, encountering wild animals is pretty common for Coloradans to experience.
Unfortunately, some people choose to negatively target Colorado's wildlife populations, in the form of illegal poaching.
Based on data collected last year, wildlife officials have sadly seen an increase in this illegal activity taking place throughout the state. CPW began noticing a rise in poaching cases during the fall of 2022.
One incident took place near Hartself, Colorado last October. According to The Colorado Sun, a hunter witnessed another individual illegally stalk and kill a pronghorn. The person then left the pronghorn's body in the grassland where it was shot. Additionally, the hunter found another doe's carcass approximately 100 yards away from the first deceased animal. The second lifeless body had been partially stripped of its meat. These findings prompted the good Samaritan to call Colorado Parks and Wildlife to investigate the possible poaching situation.
Killing animals out of season or without a valid license are both forms of poaching, as is hunting wildlife through illegal or unethical means. In many poaching scenarios, just the head or hide is taken from the animal, and the rest of the body is left to rot.
Another poaching case took place last October when a mule deer buck was killed by a rifle and then abandoned near Craig, Colorado. Law enforcement knows that the incident occurred overnight, but they were never able to apprehend the person who committed the crime.
An investigation revealed an additional poaching situation in mid-October, involving multiple elk in Park County. Several search warrants uncovered wildlife parts in homes in Colorado Springs and Fremont County. Three arrests were made in connection to these elk killings. The individuals received were charged with felonies and misdemeanors, including willful destruction of elk and failure to prepare game meat for human consumption.
At the end of October 2022, a rock climber came across a bighorn ram that had been shot and abandoned on the side of a highway near Grand Junction. A bullet was recovered from the animal's shoulder, and it was determined that it had been killed at least 24 hours prior. The incident happened before the start of the legal bighorn sheep hunting season, which is another reason why it was considered a case of poaching.
Poaching situations continued to transpire into November. There were eight cases in San Miguel County, in which mule deer or elk were killed and left to rot. In many of these scenarios, the animals were shot while in close proximity to a roadway.
The Sun reports that Colorado wildlife officers write approximately 2,600-2,700 tickets per year for various forms of poaching. Wildlife officials hope this alarming trend takes a turn in the opposite direction.
Hunting is one hundred percent legal in Colorado, as long as the laws are responsibly obeyed by those participating.