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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2003

POACHERS MAY KILL MORE TROPHY-SIZE ANIMALS IN A YEAR THAN LEGAL HUNTERS DO

Man allegedly poaches elk

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 September.

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 documents.

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 said.

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 rifle scope.”

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