Wildlife officers lay down law to outfitter

Large-antlered deer, such as this buck still in velvet, are a public resource and highly valued by sportsmen and wildlife watchers. Wildlife law oficers consider poaching such animals as stealing from the public.



QUICKREAD

Large-antlered deer, such as this buck still in velvet, are a public resource and highly valued by sportsmen and wildlife watchers. Wildlife law officers consider poaching such animals as stealing from the public.

DON ZIPPERT
Special to The Daily Sentinel



An Ignacio outfitter this month was sentenced to five years of supervised probation and lost his hunting privileges for five years after being convicted of numerous wildlife law violations.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the La Plata County District Attorney’s Office initially charged Robert C. Peck, owner of Antler Meadows Outfitters in Ignacio, with 14 counts, including six felonies, that could have resulted in more than $600,000 in fines and 18 years in jail.

Cary Carron, a district wildlife manager in Bayfield and one of the wildlife law enforcement officers involved in the case, said Peck “displayed a blatant disregard for wildlife and the people in this area.”

“His actions have had a major negative impact on buck deer populations in La Plata County for many years,” Carron said.

Peck eventually pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanors: three counts of hunting without a proper and valid license, three counts of illegal possession of wildlife and one count of illegal transfer of a license.

Among the conditions of Peck’s probation are being prohibited from hunting anywhere in the United States and participating in any hunting-related activity.

He also is prohibited from owning or handling firearms.

If Peck violates any of those conditions, he faces a one-year prison term.

In addition, Peck must pay about $8,000 in fines and associated costs and make a $10,000 donation to Operation Game Thief.

Law-abiding sportsmen long have grumbled about the relative ease by which wildlife scofflaws escape serious penalties.

Any district attorney who pursues wildlife violations should be applauded, but it’s difficult getting a court to understand the seriousness of wildlife violations.

“While penalties could have been more severe, the most important aspect of this conviction is that this outfitter will no longer be participating in hunting, outfitting or wildlife-related activities,” said Stephanie Schuler, a district wildlife officer who also works out of Bayfield.

“The La Plata District Attorney’s Office did a great job on this case and worked with us to achieve this plea,” Schuyler said.

As Carron noted, these crimes affect every hunter, angler and wildlife lover in the state.

“Poaching is basically stealing wildlife from the public,” Carron said.

Winter road closures now in effect: The Grand Junction Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management has announced the closing of a handful of roads through May 1 to protect wintering wildlife.

The closures protect critical big-game winter range and other sensitive areas as well as to prevent road damage during poor driving conditions.

“Limiting vehicle access reduces disturbance and stress to wintering wildlife,” said BLM wildlife biologist Heidi Plank.

Road closures include Blue Mesa, Beehive, Chalk Mountain, Grand Mesa Slopes at Horse Mountain, Sink Creek, Mesa Creek and Lands End road.

Also, 16 Road will be closed at Garvey, Post and Lapham canyons.

Also, the Coal Canyon road in the Little Book Cliffs Wild horse Area will be closed to motorized use through May 31.

Some roads will have locked gates while other areas will be closed through signage. All of the areas are open to non-motorized recreation such as hiking and horseback riding.

Maps of closure areas can be found online at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo.html

Information: BLM Grand Junction Field Office, 970-244-3000.


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