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Officers investigate poaching of 8 deer and elk in San Miguel County

A spike bull elk that was found shot and left to waste is pictured Nov. 17 in the Callan Draw area southwest of Norwood. (Courtesy Tony Bonacquista, Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
Colorado Parks and Wildlife seek public’s help in investigation

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is investigating eight suspected poaching incidents with Game Management Unit 70 in San Miguel County.

Poaching is suspected for three male mule deer found shot 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.

The incidents have all occurred between Oct. 30 and Nov. 15.

“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.

CPW released details on each suspected poaching case being investigated.

On Oct. 30 a small buck was shot and left 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. The animals were within easy walking distance of the road and had received wounds that were instantly fatal.

CPW District Wildlife Manager Mark Caddy said there was no apparent reason an ethical hunter would not have retrieved and tagged these deer and properly harvested the meat.

On Nov. 6, 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. 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.

A bull elk that was shot and left to waste is pictured Nov. 6 at the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area. (Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

On Nov. 6 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 about 14 miles southwest of Norwood.

Investigating the bulls, CPW officers determined that these were legal bulls based upon the antler point restriction, and the wounds were instantly fatal. These animals were about 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 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 stated in the news release.

“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.”

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.

To provide information anonymously, the public can contact Operation Game Thief by phone at 877-265-6648 or by email at game.thief@state.co.us.

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.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com