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More than 5,000 reports have been received of poaching in Colorado since 1981, resulting in more than 900 convictions, for which about $800,000 in fines were levied, and $150,000 paid to citizens for reports of suspected poaching, a recent summary asserts. Studies show that poachers kill almost as many animals as legitimate hunters do during legal seasons in various states, says the report, from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). It points out that poachers steal not only revenues generated by legitimate hunting, but kill threatened, endangered and non-game species.

Despite Best Efforts, Poaching Still Plagues the Rockies

More than 5,000 reports have been received of poaching in Colorado since 1981, resulting in more than 900 convictions, for which about $800,000 in fines were levied, and $150,000 paid to citizens for reports of suspected poaching, a recent summary asserts.

Studies show that poachers kill almost as many animals as legitimate hunters do during legal seasons in various states, says the report, from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). It points out that poachers steal not only revenues generated by legitimate hunting, but kill threatened, endangered and non-game species.

Notifications of suspected poaching arrive through Operation Game Thief, a program pioneered by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, which has been adopted by 49 of the 50 states.

Bob Thompson, acting chief of wildlife law enforcement for CPW, retiterated an agency theme that it’s a romantic myth to regard poachers as poor people trying to feed their families. Some kill for the thrill of killing and others for trophies, he said. Some kill for money, because trophy heads, antlers and bear gall bladders can be worth thousands of dollars.

“Hunters who keep shooting into a herd of animals should realize that not every animal goes down right away when it is hit,” Thompson said. “Not only is it unethical hunting, it leads to a lot of game waste, which in itself is illegal.”

Examples of mindless poaching are not hard to find. A particularly bad one occurred early this month north of Belgrade, Montana, when someone shot a black bear sow in the neck, leaving its cub to try to nurse on the dead mother.

The 25-pound yearling was captured by FWP personnel, weaned, fitted with a ear tag for monitoring, and released. The poacher has not been captured.

“I have seen people kill stuff out of season, but this was a senseless killing of a mother with a cub,” game warden Brian Lloyd of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said in the Belgrade News.

Pronghorn shot and left in Emery County, Utah. Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Pronghorn shot and left in Emery County, Utah. Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Last week, a father and son from Oregon admitted to federal wildlife violations that for five years they had brought other Oregon clients to hunt big game illegally on a ranch in Park County, unbeknownst to the ranch’s owner, although his stepson and wife were charged with violations of state law.

An AP report said the two men, who acknowledged killing more than 300 deer in five years, will spend the next four deer seasons in jail and have been stripped of their hunting privileges for life.

Last winter, Idaho Fish & Game reported that seven deer and elk had been shot and left to waste during about one month along a road near Kamiah, Idaho. “We’ve investigated poaching activity in this area in the past, but nothing to this extent,” conservation officer Roger Westfall, told Spokane’s Spokesman-Review. “There is no excuse for these senseless crimes.”

The Colorado Division of Wildlife offered its maximum reward of $5,000 last winter for information on who had fatally shot a prize bull elk in downtown Estes Park with an arrow. The animal was the star attraction of the Elk Fest at the park.

One of the most high-profile poaching cases recently in the region concerned Idaho Falls elk rancher Rex Rammell, who last year finished second to incumbent Butch Otter in a six-way race for Idaho’s Republican gubernatorial nomination, garnering 26 percent of the vote. The story of Rammell’s poaching charges was published early this year on NewWest.Net.

This month, Rammell pleaded guilty to criminal contempt after trying to distribute leaflets among potential jurors of his trial for poaching. In July, he was convicted of a misdemeanor for killing a cow elk the previous winter in a different hunting zone than that permitted on his tag, which was expired.

After being charged late last year, he released a statement blaming the sporting goods store from which he purchased the tag for giving him misinformation. He wrote that he had told the Idaho Fish and Game warden who caught him dragging the animal behind his snowmobile, “You better get your gun out, because you’re going to have to shoot me if you want this elk.”

Rammell’s hunting license was suspended for two years, and he was required to pay $1,250 in fines and fees, plus serve a 175-day jail sentence, which was stayed while he appeals the verdict.

Another political operative, Randy Vogel, was charged with poaching last spring, one day after being appointed state director for Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg. He claimed the charge that he illegally shot a spike elk was politically motivated.

The prosecution argued that Vogel, a former police officer, subsequently sold his rifle to an anonymous buyer because he knew the weapon would incriminate him. No evidence emerged that Vogel had fired the .270 caliber bullet, and he was acquitted.

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19 comments

  1. “Studies show that poachers kill almost as many animals as legitimate hunters do during legal seasons in various states, says the report”

    I would say that is a conservative estimate

  2. If you include the technical legal description yes, if you define poacher by it’s common usage then no.

    I think two of the most common methods of poaching are a husband shoots an animal on his wife’s tag, or a couple of people have tags for different sexes so whoever shoots any animal they have a tag. Illegal and fairly common.

    I look at every pile of bones I ever find while walking in the woods, I’ve yet to see a deer or elk skull with horns sawn off.

    There is something to be said for playing by the rules though. When I meet a fish and game officer I never have to be guarded in what I say because neither I nor any of my friends have anything that needs not mentioning. Makes life simpler.

  3. I am wondering if that was what hunters keep on blaming on wolves for this but really it was all blame on poachers?? That is what i keep hearing all the time that Elk and Deer and other kind were losing some but really I believe it was all on poachers for that cause!

  4. I remember hearing a news story about 30 years ago in Colorado about a hunter who had killed the last grizzly bear in the state. He was almost treated as a hero and he was very proud of the deed. I don’t think anything has changed.

  5. Poaching is wrong, but to say that poachers kill as many game animals as legimitate hunters is ridiculous.

    I would say cars kill way more deer in our area than hunters.

  6. Yeah Reality,

    But that 5,000 is just Colorado. Add in MT, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming and it adds up per year.

  7. Very sad indeed. It seems good sportsman are very rare.

  8. Immer, are you seriously going to continue to make 2.6 poaching cases PER YEAR per county in Wyoming an issue? Really! If you project out the 6100 Wyoming drunk driving citations of 2007 thirty years that’s 183,000 citations! That’s just drunk driving! Calling 5000 poaching citations “plaguing” when comparing it to 183,000 makes me wonder your motives! You need to get real! One would think that we need to call out the National Guard to protect the animals of Wyoming after reading the article! The hate for Wyoming & their wolf plan is the driving force for this article! Plain and simple!

  9. If you actually ask any serving or retired Game Warden in Wyoming how many poachers they actually nab and prosecute, they will all tell you it’s an embarrassingly small percentage. Probably low single digits at best. Especially back when judges were handing out paltry sentences and the general population felt they had a good chance of simply ‘getting away with it’.

    Laws have since been strengthened. Poachers now risk losing all their guns, toys , vehicles, and hunting privileges in 16 other states , besides paying very high restitutions for animals taken illegally. That trophy bull elk could cost an additional $ 12,500.

    The simple truth is, nobody knows the extent of poaching. The perps cover their tracks well, and there are too few data points in the court system to draw out any long projections. You have to go with anecdotal evidence, and that is always a crap shoot. My own feeling , using several vectors of evidence from the last 40 years, is poaching is very widespread , has been, and will likely stay prevalent, because human nature has not been gaining the requisite wisdom at any visible pace. Poaching is a vile trait and has not yet been eradicated in the American psyche. In some sectors it may in fact be increasing. ( I’m thinking those of anti-government Aryan/Anarchists s and Tea Party persuasions when I say this. They have guns and like meat, and horn stew I would surmise. ) I know way too many poachers.

    I somewha dispute the printed claim that illegal takes by poachers approaches the legal harvest , but I will not dispute the magnitude of the poaching problem , after all other mortality factors are considered. Poaching is endemic. We can argue about the numbers but not the effects.

    Regardless of Reality22’s hairball invectives above , the tangential tirades, and his trademark ridiculous logic, the point about strong poaching laws is to bolster DETERENCE. It’s all you can do, really. Jack up penalties to the point the poacher will think twice about stealing the public’s resources. Because those same Game Wardens who say they are lucky to even hear about a few percent of violations will also tell you they almost have to catch the perp in the act to have a case. I’m always glad when they do .

    We do love it when the egregious idiots publish the photos of their illegal takes online for bragging rights, and get hammered flat for it. If only internet Trolls could be likewise douched and exposed for their insolent daffiness , R22….

  10. What I wrote stands as written , Barry . You write as if you are defending poachers , or are one…

    There is plenty of evidence of poaching, just scant evidence of poachers. Too bad I can’t post my photo collection of headless bull elk here, also minus the ivories, amid other forensics that don’t turn up till the trail has gone cold .

    The game wardens I grew up with would often look the other way if a guy was taking an extra deer or two to feed his family . Truth be told, he would likely help the guy . But that’s not the kind of poacher we are talking about here.

    I quit guiding when the last outfitter I worked for blatantly and shamelessly put his hunter on a particular trophy ram that he had to have credit for…except that hunter’s tag was for three areas over. That particular outfitter was an outlaw thru and thru, and his top guide the most prolific poacher I ever knew. I almost married his sister so I kept my mouth shut. My case is not unique by any means. Renegade outfitters and parttime guides-fulltime mountain trash ” Long Season” poachers were the norm around here. That was in the high country . When I tended bar for two years in Meeteetse WY I heard enough poaching tales from the low country to fill another volume. All hearsay , but more than credible .

    The last two Tea Party rallies I attended here in Cody in the city park were well populated with known/suspected game violators. QED.

    How many Marxists do you personally know, Barry ? Interesting. You are either delusional about that whilst groping for aspersions to hurl back , or if in fact you do know practicing Marxists well enough to speak for them it sends up a red flag with your face on it, like Che Guevara. Are you or are you not also the troll known as Reality 22 , because both of you have gone ga-ga here of late. Certifiably so. The writing style is too similar, if you can call that writing and not florid words on fire without structure.

    Poaching is indeed a widespread problem in my corner of the world. Just no smoking guns to prosecute.

  11. Ah dewey, we all know that “god” brought on Irene and the recent earth quake. The main stream media will play that tea party cut till the cows come home! …. only strengthens the resolve of some!

  12. Reality,

    I certainly grasp you point, however the article was about poaching. I made a comment about the summative value of poaching in the NRM states. Now all of a sudden you are the great social crusader. Sure the problems of Wyoming need be addressed, and if it is drunk driving, then make it known if you drive when drunk it’s the last time you drive, and follow through with it. Problem solved.

    You were quoted as willing to support a poacher, which refutes any ethical character that you might have. And I reinforce that if Wyoming put the effort against drunk driving that they have against wolves, which cause far less harm than the legion of drunks within the state, then problem solved.

    As for the remainder of your lint, you are once again venturing into the programmed world of psycho-babble and paranoia.

  13. Dewey, as far as the name …. you said it was “barry” above! Some say you’re the know all mule abusing “wizard” and should know these things! But, you may be wrong on that one! Barry has a much better handle on the English language and sentence structure than I! Never had it & never will.

    You forgot the latest descriptive “leeches” in your demeaning rant may turn out to be the best one word to describe your ilk in years!

  14. Immer, told you numerous times I won’t SSS…. and won’t condemn one who does! Poaching takes on a little different meaning when the majority of the local people don’t support something as “being poached”. Immer you and your ilk have to come to terms with where wolves & poaching have evolved…..even the Governor of Montana was mad enough at the tactics of your breed to come to the same conclusion/comment he made before the rider passed. For you to come on this thread & say I “cannot be taken seriously” is fairly arrogant and bigheaded yet naive. Numerous others more important stake holders have said the same thing!

    I’ve also told you that until the law suits end this will be something your kind will need to contend with…. we still are dealing with a “constitutional” law suit for Northern Rockies & in the Great Lakes a “multi species” law suit is in the works! Get use to it pal!

  15. apparently Altered Reality has decided that poaching is only a “reality” if (s)he decides it is, in some altered reality. Thinking of changing your nickname to Timothy Leary; at least that would lend (((some))) validity to your drivel.

    then

    We have “little Barry Coe” quantitating on what constitutes a common sense or a logical point of view while at the same time exhibiting, at best, a mere pedestrian grasp of the English language.

    I tell ya, you just can’t make this stuff up.

  16. Reality,

    Parts of two quotes in the same post

    “Enough said, & can let the hunting community police and try to keep poaching to the minimum it is and bring the poacher to justice.”

    “but just said told you numerous times I won’t SSS…. and won’t condemn one who does!”

    Bit of a contradiction,eh?

    Either you condemn the illegal take of fish and game, or not.

    My breed/ilk? You know absolutely nothing about me except what you assume.

    Find a new crusade.

  17. Good comment Ron….. The Mark Lemke’s and Edita Birnkrant of the world have to be held accoutable for their actions…. The taxpayer should not be footing the bill for this high maintenance killer. Mark makes the lame comment that confirmed depredation is minimal ….. minimal to who? Someone should go and rip 2 grand from Edita and Marks pocket! If “Friends of Animals” wants to increase wolf populations they need to cough up some moo-la not the taxpayer!

  18. Barry, I laughed too….. I would put substantial money down to wager that Jeff E is one of Cody’s / Dewey’s alter ego boosters… The man brags of having countless sign-on’s & a rolodex to keep them straight. Yup, Dewey was the 1st to mention Nazi on this post…..

    Jury nullification is something that could happen in the years to come for a wolf “poaching” case. When the majority of the northern Wisconsin counties all pass resolutions against the wolf and increasing the wolf plan goals, or Counties like Idaho county in Idaho declare a “disaster” one has to think a jury from those areas could easily revolt.