November 20, 2003
A midvalley man is facing nearly $13,000 in fines and
surcharges for allegedly poaching a cow elk and a bull elk east of Aspen in
Marc McKinney received four misdemeanor citations from the
Colorado Division of Wildlife after a lengthy investigation this fall.
Pitkin County court documents show McKinney was ticketed for two counts of
illegal possession of wildlife, unlawful taking of wildlife and aggravated
illegal possession of wildlife.
The state wildlife division contends that McKinney
unlawfully used a salt block to bait the animals. The site was ambiguously
described in legal documents as the beaver pond area east of Aspen between
mile markers 47 and 49 on Highway 82.
McKinney received the tickets on Oct. 7 for incidents that
allegedly occurred on Sept. 11. McKinney is scheduled to make his first
appearance in county court Tuesday, Nov. 25.
The charges of illegally possessing wildlife carry a
potential $1,000 fine with a $370 surcharge each, according to court
The unlawful taking count has the potential for a $50 fine
and $18 surcharge.
The bulk of the total of $12,808 in fines and surcharges
is associated with the aggravated illegal possession charge, the most
serious McKinney is facing.
The wildlife officer who wrote the tickets declined
comment about the incident. Game warden Kevin Wright referred questions to
division spokesman Todd Malmsbury.
Malmsbury said details of the alleged poaching incident
couldn’t be released due to department policy on unresolved cases. “There’s
a good chance this will go to trial,” said Malmsbury.
The prosecutor in the case, Gail Nichols of the Pitkin
County District Attorney’s office, also refused comment.
McKinney, who lives in unincorporated Eagle County near El
Jebel, didn’t return telephone calls seeking comment. Court documents didn’t
indicate if he will be represented by an attorney.
Malmsbury said that the location where the elk were killed
was less than a mile off Highway 82, on public lands. The elk were killed
during archery season, which ran Aug. 30 through Sept. 28. They were killed
with bow and arrows, Malmsbury said.
The Aspen Times first heard of the incident from a hunter
who was concerned the incident would reflect poorly on all sportsmen. That
hunter said another person tipped off the wildlife division about the
allegedly illegal activities after checking the scene.
Talking in general terms, Malmsbury said poaching occurs
when someone knowingly conspires to kill an animal illegally. There is “intent and willfulness,” he
Cases where a hunter mistakes a cow elk for a deer, for
example, and reports the incident to a wildlife officer isn’t considered
poaching, according to Malmsbury. It’s considered an accident and an act
that wasn’t intentional.
Baiting of big game is strictly forbidden. “In Colorado,
baiting for wildlife has been a crime for many decades,” he said.
Malmsbury wouldn’t discuss what conditions must exist to
“aggravate” the charge of illegal possession of wildlife. That would be
difficult to do without getting into details of the case, he explained.
This case coincidentally comes at a time when the wildlife
division is stepping up efforts to catch poachers. The state agency recently
announced it would increase winter range patrols on the Western Slope, from
the Wyoming border south to the Four Corners region, to catch big-game
poachers who prey on deer and elk in the off-season.
Officers equipped with surveillance cameras will check the
region around the clock in marked and unmarked vehicles to track any
illegal hunting activity. This year’s winter range patrols will
be among the most far-reaching anti-poaching operations in recent
history, said Eric Schaller,
a Montrose-based criminal investigator for the wildlife division.
“Poachers may kill more trophy-size animals in a year than
legal hunters do,” said Schaller in a prepared statement. “We’d like
to keep poachers looking over their shoulder rather than through their