OUT: Pair of poachers get the book thrown at them, as it should be

Those slamming doors you’ve heard recently are, with any luck, the last sounds you’ll hear from a couple of local poachers.

Thanks to some diligent work by wildlife investigators and public prosecutors who take wildlife crimes seriously, we won’t hear from Kirt Darner and Erik Ambriz for a long, long, time.

Darner, you recall, is the Crawford poacher convicted in New Mexico of a litany of wildlife crimes, including illegally transporting wild elk and receiving stolen bighorn sheep heads.

His was a crime spree that lasted at least 30 years, fooling so many of us wanting to believe that we, too, might someday inhabit his make-believe world of hunting conquests.

But it wasn’t hunting, it was poaching, and for that Darner paid the ultimate penalty facing a hunter and angler — the lifetime loss of his privilege to do both.

A similar fate now awaits Ambriz, who earlier this week was convicted in Mesa County District Court for what one investigator terms the “most aggravated cases” of wildlife crime to happen in western Colorado.

Already boasting a criminal history of poaching, Ambriz just couldn’t help bragging about his most recent exploits, only he finally opened his mouth around the right person, an undercover investigator for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Thanks to running his mouth without engaging his brain, apparently a common syndrome among the various fools who steal wildlife resources, Ambriz now faces four and half years in prison for illegally shooting a 5x6 trophy bull elk.

Darner didn’t receive jail time but did get 4,500 hours — the equivalent of four and a half years — of community service.

Wildlife officers said Ambriz also may face additional charges for his poaching of three more elk and two mule deer in Utah. But what hurt Ambriz most was when the state announced he, too, faces permanent loss of his hunting and fishing privileges.

Both of these men, because they now are convicted felons, can never hunt, fish or own a firearm or bow again.

That’s not just in Colorado but in the 30 states now members of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.

That’s what hurts dimwits such as these. It’s not the potential jail time or the usual fine, it’s knowing that you must sit home and watch college football while your buddies, if you have any left, are hunting.

“There are three deterrents to wildlife crime,” explained DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.

“Jail time, fines and loss of hunting and fishing privileges. We’ve found that in most cases the first two aren’t much of a deterrent. The biggest deterrent is the fear of losing hunting and fishing privileges.”

Carl Gramlick, Southeast Region law enforcement program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, agreed.

“In most of the cases we see in Utah, the guys who get convicted really hate to lose their licenses,” he said. “They usually try to get out of the charge through fines or restitution to
the state. They just don’t want to have their license revoked.”

But Gramlick added that many of those who get caught poaching “usually aren’t much for buying a license, unfortunately.”

Anyone familiar with Colorado’s game laws might wonder why Ambriz didn’t get pinned with the $10,000 Samson Law fine, which is automatic for killing at trophy animal.

The DOW requested Ambriz face Samson charges but those were dropped in the final plea agreement.

“We requested those charges but we have no issues at all in terms of this case,” Hampton said. “We are very pleased with the work of the district attorney’s office. They kept us informed at all times and we’re in complete agreement with what was worked out.”

Ambriz and his accomplice, Michael Gordon of Grand Junction, also face a slew of poaching charges in Utah.

According to Utah wildlife officer TJ Robertson, the two pinheads face charges of illegally killing a trophy elk on Sept. 14 plus three other felony wildlife counts, including illegally killing a cow elk and two mule deer bucks on Oct. 14 and another trophy class elk on Oct. 15.

Ambriz is charged as the one pulling the trigger, and Gordon faces aiding and assisting charges, which carry the same fines and jail time.

As Hampton noted, these poachers didn’t just kill an elk, they killed everyone’s elk.

“They stole not only from sportsmen across Colorado but from every citizen in the state,” he said.


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