Colorado Parks and Wildlife fighting game-law violators

Trophy animals such as this mule deer buck are never safe from the threat of poachers. Wildlife officials estimate poachers illegally kill as much game as legal hunters.



To say Colorado Parks and Wildlife is concerned about the problem of poaching is an understatement.

Through its Operation Game Thief anonymous tip line and its continued efforts at educating sportsmen and the general public, the agency finds itself waging a war against devious game-law violators.

The arrest earlier this month of four men from South Carolina for poaching deer and other animals has prompted public discussion and debate about the importance of ethical hunting.

It also illustrates how seriously the agency, law-abiding hunters and many residents of the state take illegal wildlife activity.

As was reported last week in The Daily Sentinel, a lengthy investigation by state and federal wildlife officials wound up with George Plummer, Michael Courtney, Joseph Nevling and James Cole being arrested
Sept. 7 near Collbran.

The four were accused of violating a variety of wildlife laws including using poison arrows, hunting after legal hours, using bow-mounted electronic or battery-powered devices and hunting bear, deer and elk over bait.

“In Colorado, wildlife regulations exist for three main reasons,” Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde said. “There are biological reasons, safety reasons and ‘fair chase’ considerations. The use of poisons or toxicants to hunt is a very unethical method of hunting, violating the tenets of fair chase and can also be very dangerous to the user.”

Velarde said the use of poisons and toxicants allows an individual to take an irresponsible shot, relying on the effects of the drugs to kill the animal rather than skill, patience, discipline and a well-placed shot.

The four men quickly pleaded guilty to the illegal activity and paid more than $10,000 in fines for the use of the toxicant, a powerful muscle relaxant that causes rapid paralysis and shuts down the animal’s respiratory system.

Basically, the animal suffocates to death.

Among the evidence officers seized were compound bows, arrows and quivers, an ATV, night vision goggles, flashlights mounted on their bows, coolers containing game meat, animal hides, the poison and the arrow-mounted pods used to inject the drug into the elk, deer and bear they killed.

All four men received a four-year deferred sentence on charges of illegal possession of three or more big game animals.

Violating the terms of the deferral could result in fines of up to $10,000 per animal and a year in jail.

During the four years, the men are banned from hunting in Colorado.

Additionally, each defendant faces losing his hunting and fishing privileges for life in Colorado and 38 other states, including South Carolina, belonging to the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.


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