Colorado Officials Investigating After Poacher Kills Bighorn Sheep Near Highway

by Samantha Whidden
(Image Credit: Ron Watts/Getty Images)

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is currently conducting an investigation after a poacher kills a desert bighorn sheep close to a local highway. According to a press release, authorities say the desert bighorn sheep was discovered near Colorado State Highway 141 between Gateway and Grand Junction. The wildlife officers responded Monday (October 31st) when a rock climber reported the animal had been shot and left off Highway 141 between mile markers 147 and 148. Officers found a mature desert bighorn. It was determined the animal had been shot at least 24 hours earlier. The responding officers also recovered a rifle bullet from behind the front shoulder of the ram.

“The ram was shot and left there with nothing removed from it,” CPW wildlife officer Kevin Duckett revealed. “There is a desert bighorn sheep hunting season in that unit, but it does not start until November 1st, and this ram was killed out of season and left to rot.”

Duckett further shared that the ram had a 5/8 to 3/4 curl of its horns. Fines may exceed $25,000 for the illegal take of a bighorn ram over half-curl. “Willful destruction of a big-game animal is a felony in Colorado,” Officials further explained. “And can result in a lifetime suspension of hunting and fishing privileges. Convictions could result in fines and jail time, depending on the charge.”

Duckett went on to add the importance of turning in the poachers. “Desert bighorn sheep are pretty limited,” Duckett said. “And CPW offers very limited opportunities for hunting these sheep. This act of poaching takes away from sportspersons.”

Amid Bighorn Sheep Investigation, Colorado Parks & Wildlife Rewards Citizens Who Turn in Poachers 

CPW shared it is asking the public for any information about those responsible for the desert bighorn sheep’s killing. The organization then stated that Operation Game Thief 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.”

CPW further explained that 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,” CPW said. “And robs all of us of a valuable natural resource that makes Colorado so special: our wildlife.”

The organization then stated willful destruction of a big-game animal is a felony in Colorado. It can also result in a lifetime suspension of hunting and fishing privileges. Convictions may result in fines and jail time. However, this depends on the charge.

According to the National Park Service website, the desert big sheep was once in danger of becoming extinct. It has now made a comeback in parts of western Colorado. It was noted that a small population was reintroduced to Colorado National Monument in 1979.  “While more than 230 sheep have been sighted and monitored across the public lands of the Grand Valley, about 40 bighorn thrive in and around Colorado National Monument.”