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Winter Big Game Poaching is Big Problem 
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Post Winter Big Game Poaching is Big Problem

Colorado’s deer and elk struggle to make it through the winter. Unfortunately, the animals face more than deep snow and cold temperatures. Poachers take cruel advantage of winter conditions to illegally kill big game animals.

Throughout the state, the Colorado Division of Wildlife steps up its efforts at this time of year to catch poachers. The DOW asks for help from the public to report suspicious activity that might be related to wildlife.

“Poachers are criminals who are maliciously damaging Colorado’s wildlife resource,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in the Gunnison area. “Wildlife officers patrol large areas, so we need people to call to tell us about possible criminal activity.”

At this time of year, deer and elk gather in herds in winter range areas where food sources are available throughout the winter. Consequently, the animals are often highly visible to humans and are vulnerable to poachers.

“This is also the mating season for deer, and during the rut bucks have just one thing on their minds,” explained Rod Ruybalid, district wildlife manager in the San Luis Valley. “They are easy to see and, unfortunately, easy to shoot.”

Most of the animals that are poached are bucks and bulls that are killed only for their heads and antlers. Wildlife officers often find headless carcasses, or carcasses from which only the antlers have been removed.

“It’s rare that anyone poaches for meat, they are just going for the trophies,” Ruybalid said.

During the last month in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, several poachers have been caught. Fines will likely range from $3,000 to nearly $40,000 for the violations. More than 10 deer were killed in various incidents.

“The deer population in the San Luis Valley has been down for several years but is now starting to recover,” Ruybalid said. “People are starting to see some big bucks. When these animals are killed it causes significant impact to the overall health of the herd. These bucks are strong and it is important that they continue to mate.”

The actions of poachers also steal the future from hunters and communities. Healthy herds draw hunters and wildlife watchers who help support the local economy in rural areas.

Poachers often work back roads, looking for areas where deer and elk gather. If you see vehicles traveling slowly along roads, or unusual activity at night, please call the nearest DOW office or any law enforcement organization such as local police, the sheriff’s office or the Colorado State Patrol. Calling local law enforcement offices can help to bring a fast response.

If you see suspicious activity, gather as much information as possible: vehicle description, location details, descriptions of people and time of the incident. Do not attempt to intervene or confront anyone.

If you find a headless carcass, inform the local DOW office as soon as possible.

You can also call DOW’s Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648.

“Wildlife belongs to everyone in Colorado,” Ruybalid said. “And everyone can help protect this valuable resource.”


Fri Jan 12, 2007 6:37 am
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