Rig worker arrested for poaching | AspenTimes.com

Rig worker arrested for poaching

Donna Gray
Glenwood Springs correspondent

An oil and gas drill rig worker has been charged with illegally killing a trophy buck deer north of Parachute on Thanksgiving Day.

Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) officers arrested Joseph L. Chapman of Provo, Utah, on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Chapman has been charged with willful destruction of wildlife, a class 5 felony, with a sentence range of 1-3 years in prison and a $1,000 to $100,000 fine.

The charges also carry a “Samson” surcharge of $10,000 for killing a trophy big game animal. Samson was a trophy elk that was illegally killed in the Estes Park area several years ago.

Chapman was also charged with hunting out of season, illegal possession of wildlife and transportation and exportation of wildlife, all of which are misdemeanors.

According to the arrest affidavit filed by DOW officer J.T. Romatzke, he was contacted on Nov. 28 by a wildlife officer in Utah and told that Chapman had illegally taken a mule deer buck in the Parachute Creek area. The officer in turn had the information from a “confidential informant,” the affidavit said.

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Romatzke interviewed drill rig workers who reported seeing a trophy buck with two distinctive “drop tines” or points on its antlers, but had not seen the animal for two weeks. He also identified Chapman’s vehicle from a description given him by the Utah office. He also saw a set of deer antlers in the rear seat.

On Dec. 6, Romatzke and seven officers from both DOW and the Fish and Wildlife Service went to the Union Drilling rig, seven miles up Garfield County Road 215, where they interviewed Chapman who admitted to killing the buck.

Chapman told officers he shot the buck with a bow early on Thanksgiving morning. He then cut the head off and hid the carcass in some brush without gutting it or taking any meat.

He said he took the head back to his home in Provo and hid it in a shed. The head was later located by a Utah wildlife officer who found it hidden in a shed at Chapman’s home. The head’s antlers had the distinctive drop tines.

“Chapman stated that he has been obsessing over the deer for nearly a month and that he shot the deer because he was ‘stupid,'” Romatzke said in the arrest affidavit.

Hampton said DOW has a continuing effort to reduce poaching in the western Colorado gas fields.

“In the 1980s we saw significant increases in poaching when energy work was going on,” said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton. “We feel more prepared this time. We’re doing what we can as an agency to see it doesn’t happen again.”

Hampton said oil and gas companies have cooperated in the effort to stem poaching and have policies in place for workers that prohibit possession of firearms and hunting while on the job.

“We’re being vigilant because we know the temptation” for drill rig workers to hunt out of season, Hampton said. “We would like to keep history from repeating itself.”

Chapman is free on $13,000 bond and will appear in court Dec. 20.

The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.