Careless hunters taking aim at moose


Reporting violations

• Anyone with information about illegal hunting activity can contact the local district wildlife manager, enforcement agency or Operation Game Thief toll-free at 877-COLO-OGT (877-265-6648). Callers may remain anonymous.

An unexpected surge in illegal moose killings has the Division of Wildlife urging hunters to make sure of their target before pulling the trigger.

With Colorado at the halfway mark in the 2010 big-game hunting season, the division has investigated 10 cases of hunters illegally killing moose, either through carelessness or negligence.

“It blows me away, with all the PR we’ve done getting the word to hunters that there are moose in the area, that this still is happening,” said Ron Velarde, manager of the DOW’s Northwest Region.

None of the cases involved moose on Grand Mesa. The illegal killings occurred in North and Middle parks and on the White River east of Meeker.

“We’ve spent a lot of sportsmen’s dollars putting these moose out, and it’s up to sportsmen to help us protect them,” Velarde said.

Colorado has several large herds of moose scattered around the Western Slope and northern Colorado, and by now hunters should be aware of the animals’ presence.

However, some hunters still are surprised to see a moose in an area where elk or deer are expected. But being surprised isn’t an excuse, DOW Chief of Law Enforcement Jay Sarason said.

“We expect hunters to positively identify their game,” he said. “It’s simple: If you’re not absolutely sure, don’t shoot.”

Wildlife identification composes a large part of the state’s Hunter Education course, Velarde said, as well being sure of your target before pulling the trigger.

Among the egregious cases this fall are two elk hunters who mistakenly shot bull moose, which look nothing like bull elk.

One of those hunters, who left his moose fatally wounded and did not report his infraction for four days, is facing charges that could bring more than $14,000 in fines and the certainty of a license suspension hearing, the DOW said.

“If a guy mistakenly shoots a moose and reports it to us, we’ll take a bit easier on him,” Velarde said. “We want to let people know they can turn themselves in and face reduced charges. We don’t want the moose to go to waste.

“But if they shoot a moose, leave it and don’t tell us, we’ll throw the book at them.”

Division regulations say abandonment of a carcass could bring felony charges, jail time and the permanent loss of hunting privileges in Colorado and 34 other states that participate in the Wildlife Violator Compact.

Because moose are relatively rare (there are around 1,500 in Colorado), hunting licenses for them are very restricted.

This year, Colorado will issue more than 225,000 elk licenses but only 154 moose licenses. The lifetime bag limit for bull moose in Colorado is one.

“Moose hunting in Colorado is literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Velarde said. “Every moose that a careless or negligent hunter kills is a hunt denied to someone else.”

The third deer and elk hunting season runs Saturday through Nov. 14, with the final season running Nov. 17-21.


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