An investigation is under way after hunters found three mule deer and five elk that had been shot and left to waste in Colorado, wildlife officials said.
All the animals were found between Oct. 30 and November. 15 in San Miguel County, according to a Nov. 21 news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“This is an egregious violation of Colorado’s laws surrounding hunting and fishing, which require hunters to prepare game meat for human consumption,” CPW’s area wildlife manager Rachel Sralla said in the release.
Hunters first discovered a mule deer on Oct. 30 “in the higher elevations of Dry Creek Basin,” CPW said. The little buck had been shot and left behind.
While officers were responding to the call, another group of hunters stopped them about a “small buck that had been shot and left wildlife less than a mile away,” CPW said. The animals, whose wounds were “instantly fatal,” were within walking distance of the road.
“There was no apparent reason an ethical hunter would not have retrieved and tagged these deer and properly harvested the meat,” according to CPW’s Mark Caddy, the release said.
A week later, “on the last day of the second rifle season,” hunters stumbled upon another mule deer in Dry Creek Basin, CPW said. After looking at the carcass, officers determined the animal had likely been shot that day, adding there was again “no apparent reason” to leave the animal behind.
While Tony Bonacquista, CPW’s district wildlife manager, was looking into the Dry Creek Basin poaching case, he received a call about two bull elk that had been left to waste “on the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area approximately 14 miles southwest of Norwood,” the news release said.
The elk were a short distance from the road, leaving “no apparent reason” that an “ethical hunter” would not retrieve them, CPW said.
Eleven days after this incident, on Nov. 17, hunters discovered a spike bull elk in a field, CPW said. The animal had been “shot and left in the Callan Draw area southwest of Norwood.”
While looking into this poaching case, another spike bull elk and two cow elk were found, the release said. It looked as if those behind this incident tried to get the cow elk but later decided to leave the carcass, as well as equipment meant to retrieve the animal.
“In any activity that people enjoy, most of the time things go well and the participants behave in the appropriate legal, moral and ethical manner,” Caddy said. “Sometimes, however, there are one or two people who show up and act in a manner that no one inside or outside of the activity can condone.”
CPW warned that “poaching is a serious and costly crime.”
In addition to costing taxpayers’ money generated by the sport, “it robs all of us of a valuable natural resource that makes Colorado so special: our wildlife,” CPW said.
Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to call CPW’s Caddy at 970-209-2368 or Bonacquista at 970-209-2374.
San Miguel County is about 300 miles southwest of Colorado Springs.