Colorado Parks and Wildlife is seeking information about a bull elk that was killed illegally last week 15 miles northwest of Cortez in Southwest Colorado.
Wildlife officers said the elk was shot the evening of Aug. 25 or the morning of Aug. 26. A landowner discovered the carcass in a field on County Road 20 east of U.S. Highway 491, near Yellow Jacket. The case was reported to a game warden.
The head of the elk was cut off, and the carcass left to rot, said Matt Sturdevant, district wildlife manager for CPW. The investigation is ongoing.
Preventing and investigating illegal poaching is a high priority for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said Joe Lewandowski, CPW spokesman.
“Poaching steals resources from legitimate hunters and the people of Colorado,” he said. “People here value wildlife resources, and elk are an iconic species.”
CPW relies on the public to report illegal hunting because relatively few wildlife officers must cover a vast area.
“The public helps solve a lot of these cases, and they can remain anonymous,” Lewandowski said.
Poaching wildlife comes with stiff penalties.
Colorado enacted Samson’s Law to place heavy fines on illegal hunting. Under the law, there is an automatic $10,000 fine for an illegally killed bull elk with an antler rack of six points or more.
The law was passed after a popular bull elk in Estes Park was illegally killed inside town limits.
The perpetrator could also face a charge of wasting meat of a game animal, hunting out of season and trespassing. Those violations could add up to another $10,000 in fines, according to CPW.
Hay fields in the Yellow Jacket area routinely attract elk and deer herds from the nearby San Juan National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands. Before this incident, there had been no reported cases this year of wildlife poaching in Montezuma County, wildlife officials said.
In November 2018, two bull elk were illegally killed northeast of Norwood in the Uncompahgre National Forest.
In November 2016, two unlicensed hunting guides from Nucla and their Tennessee clients were convicted and sentenced by a federal court for illegal hunting activities involving poaching at least 17 elk on the Uncompahgre Plateau, according to CPW. At least one mountain lion was also killed illegally in that case.
The loss of a bull elk to poaching is especially troubling because of struggling elk populations in Colorado, officials said.
Anyone who was in the area and saw anything suspicious or unusual is asked to call Sturdevant at 749-1435, Lewandowski said.
A reward is available through Colorado’s Operation Game Thief for information leading to the successful prosecution of the violators.
Reports can also be made anonymously through Operation Game Thief at (877) 265-6648 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who provides a tip that leads to an arrest is eligible for a reward.