Pitco tame when it comes to poaching | AspenTimes.com

Pitco tame when it comes to poaching

Two recent cases of alleged wildlife poaching may cast a poor light on hunters in Pitkin County, but statistics show other parts of the state suffer much higher rates of illegal hunting.

A study by the Colorado Division of Wildlife on hunting and fishing violations shows 273 citations were issued by game wardens in Pitkin County between 1993 and 2002. Those violations range from the severe ” shooting big game like deer or elk out of season ” to the minor, like failure to properly tag an animal.

Violations in Pitkin County are a fraction of those found in other areas. Down the road in Garfield County, for example, there were almost as many violations in one year as the entire 10-year period in Pitkin County.

Wildlife officers issued 1,734 violations in Garfield County between 1993 and 2002. The record year was 2000, when 262 violations were issued, the study showed.

Garfield County didn’t have the dubious distinction of having the most hunting problems. There were 5,957 violations in Larimer County over the 10 years included in the study. Mesa, Moffat, Pueblo and Weld counties also had more violations than Garfield.

Statewide, there were 54,798 hunting and fishing citations between 1993 and 2002, according to the wildlife division’s report. Visitors cannot be blamed. About 80 percent of citations were issued to Colorado residents.

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The state levies its biggest fines for Samson Law violations ” the poaching of trophy game. There have been 79 citations involving poaching of trophy game in the state since the law was enacted in 1998. One case filed in Pitkin County in 1999 was dismissed.

Since that study was completed, two other alleged Samson cases occurred in Pitkin County.

An El Jebel man is facing allegations that he used salt and mineral blocks to attract elk east of Aspen last fall. The man killed a cow, then a trophy bull during archery season. He was charged with illegal taking of the elk. He pleaded not guilty and is headed toward a jury trial in May.

If he’s found guilty, he could face fines and surcharges of nearly $13,000.

In a different case, a Carbondale man pleaded guilty Tuesday to shooting five deer out of season earlier this winter. The case involved one trophy deer, but Samson charges weren’t pursued.

The man was fined and ordered to surrender his rifle for five years.

The wildlife division’s research shows convictions in the high-profile Samson cases are far from automatic. The 79 violations associated with Samson cases involved 38 separate incidents through 2002.

In 21 of the 38 incidents, there were convictions, warnings or fines paid by hunters without contesting the charges.

In 12 cases, the hunters were found not guilty or the charges were dismissed. Five cases were pending at the time of the report.

The wildlife division’s overall conviction rate is much higher. Its report said it receives convictions, issues warnings or has hunters pay fines without fighting charges in 81 percent of its cases.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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