Poaching continues to be a major issue in Colorado. Some national studies indicate that poachers kill almost as many animals as legitimate hunters do during legal hunting seasons. If poachers kill even half that number each year, the problem is serious because they are stealing game from licensed hunters, robbing businesses and taxpayers of revenues generated by hunting, and depriving us all of a valuable resource – our wildlife. And it’s not just game animals that poachers steal. They also kill threatened, endangered and non-game species.
Who are the Poachers?
Poaching is surrounded by romantic myths that just aren’t true. Poachers are not people trying to feed their families. In fact, putting food on the table is one of the least common motives for poaching. Poachers kill for the thrill of killing, to lash out at wildlife laws, or for profit. They kill wildlife any way, time and place they can. And poaching rings can be well organized and extremely profitable. In a nutshell, poachers are criminals and should be dealt with as such.
What is Poaching?
Poaching is the illegal taking or possession of any game, fish or non-game wildlife. Hunting out-of-season or outside of the game management unit for which you have a valid license, hunting at night with a spotlight or taking more animals than the legal limit all constitute poaching. Also, a non-resident who buys a resident license can also be convicted for poaching.
Flock shooting big game is tantamount to poaching since it usually leaves multiple dead and wounded animals. “Hunters who keep shooting into a herd of animals should realize that not every animal goes down right away when it is hit,” said Thompson “Not only is it unethical hunting, it leads to a lot of game waste, which in itself is illegal.”
You Can Help Catch Poachers!
Hunters who witness such violations should report them to wildlife officers or local law enforcement or call Operation Game Thief, a nonprofit organization that often pays rewards to people whose tips lead to an arrest being made or a citation being issued to poachers.
To contact Operation Game Thief, call 1 (877) 265-6648. This number can be found printed on hunters’ carcass tags. Tips can also be made to Colorado Parks and Wildlife by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to Look For
The more details the better, when helping to identify poachers. The essential information includes:
- Date and time of the Violation
- Location of the incident (as exact as possible)
- A description of the violation – number of shots heard, type of weapon, etc.
- The number of suspects
- Names and/or identifying features such as age, height, hair color, clothes, etc.
- Vehicle description including type, year, color and license number
- How a poached animal is being transported, or where it is being stored
- Any other pertinent information
Remember, try to get the information to us as soon as possible. Any delay may mean we can’t catch the bad guys!
Rewards are often paid for information which leads to an arrest or a citation being issued– $500 in cases involving big game or endangered species, $250 for turkey and $100 for information on other wildlife violations. Awards of up to $1,000 may be given in significant poaching cases.
“We depend on concerned citizens to report poaching activity. We need the public’s eyes and ears to help catch poachers,” Thompson said.
Since 1981, Operation Game Thief has received more than 5,000 reports of poaching, resulting in more than 900 convictions. These convictions netted more than $800,000 in fines, and have resulted in the seizure of more than 1,300 illegally-taken animals. During this time period, rewards totaling more than $150,000 have been paid to citizens who reported suspected illegal activity that resulted in an arrest or a citation being issued.
You Can Also Help by Contributing
You can also help by contributing to the reward fund that makes the program possible. Make checks out to Operation Game Thief and send your tax deductible contribution to: Operation Game Thief, c/o Parks and Wildlife, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216. Remember, the reward fund depends on your contributions. With your help, something can and will be done about poaching.
Additionally, people who turn in poachers may receive preference points or even licenses in some cases. Find out more from the Turn in Poachers (TIP) program. For more information, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.