Eight ‘Egregious’ Animal Killings in Colorado County Being Investigated as Poaching Incident

by Taylor Cunningham
Kerry Hargrove/Getty

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is investigating eight animal killings in San Miguel County as possible poachings after they were shot and left to rot for no apparent reason.

The shootings happened between Oct. 30 and Nov. 16. Officials found the first animal, a small buck, left in the Dry Creek Basin. Then they found a second buck less than a mile away. Both deer were within walking distance of the road and officers determined that the bullet was instantly fatal.

On Nov. 6, officials found a mule deer that they believe was killed the same day and in the same manner as the others. Like the first two deer, there was no ethical reason not to harvest the animal.

While officers were investigating the first three poachings, they learned that someone also shot two bull elk and left them in the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area. Those animals died from a clean shot and were left close to a road as well. Once again, there was no reason to leave them.

Poaching in the State of Colorado Carries Hefty Penalties

Officers found the final three animals, two cow elk and a spike bull elk, in Callan Draw on Nov. 17. They determined that the animals died one or two days prior. It appeared that the killer had tried to retrieve the cow elk before abandoning it.

“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. These ethical hunters are as concerned about this happening as we are,” said CPW District Wildlife Manager Mark Caddy.

CPW Area Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla added the killings are an “egregious violation of Colorado’s laws surrounding hunting and fishing, which require hunters to prepare game meat for human consumption.”

Poaching big game is a serious crime in the state, and offenders can face major penalties if found guilty. The class 5 felony carries up to $100,000 in fines and three years of possible jail time. Criminals can also lose their rights to hunting licenses in 47 states thanks to an interstate wildlife violator compact.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife hopes the public can help solve the poaching crimes by offering tips. Officers with Game Management Unit 70 ask anyone with information to call 970-209-2368 or 970-209-2374.

Tipsters who wish to remain anonymous can instead contact Operation Game Thief by phone at 877-265-6648 or by email at [email protected].