Mountain Law: Colorado hunting law: An overview
Ryan Summerlin September 18, 2012
With some hunting seasons under way in Colorado and others around the corner, it’s a good time to provide an overview of our state’s hunting law.
> Colorado regulates many details of hunting such as the availability of hunting licenses, types of game that may be taken, applicable hunting seasons, where hunting can occur, what types of guns or bows may be used, and so forth.
> Hunting wildlife in Colorado generally requires a license. The license must be in the hunter’s possession when hunting and at the location where any wildlife is kept. The license is not transferable. There is a mandatory 10-hour hunter education course prior to obtaining a license.
> In some cases, local landowners are given preference in obtaining licenses. There are various special licenses or rules that apply to youth, disabled or terminally ill hunters, military veterans and nonresidents.
> It does not require a license in Colorado to kill certain animals on lands that one owns or leases if they are causing damage to crops, real or personal property or livestock. The list of animals that may be killed includes magpies, crows, coyotes, red foxes, raccoons, prairie dogs, pocket gophers, certain kinds of squirrels and beavers. In addition, any person can kill skunks or rattlesnakes “when necessary to protect life or property.”
> Most violations of Colorado hunting law are misdemeanors punishable by jail time, fines and/or loss of hunting privileges. The illegal sale of big game, endangered species or eagles is a felony. The harshest punishment – up to $100,000 fine and a year in prison – is reserved for illegally possessing eagles, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and peregrine falcons. In addition to criminal punishment, Colorado law allows the state to sue violators civilly to recover damages and possession for illegally taken wildlife.
> Colorado law presumes that any wildlife in a person’s possession was taken by hunting or trapping. It is illegal to have possession of wildlife from another state or country that was taken in violation of the local laws where it originated.
> Colorado hunters under age 12 may not take big game (deer, elk, moose, bear, etc.). Hunters under age 16 must be accompanied by an older person who has hunting certification.
> It is illegal in Colorado to interfere with somebody lawfully hunting such as by disturbing traps, frightening prey, interjecting oneself into the line of fire or attempting to deny access to hunting areas.
> Colorado hunters must reasonably attempt to use killed wildlife for human consumption. They are not permitted to detach certain parts – such as the head – and abandon the carcass.
> Hunting on private land in Colorado requires permission from the owner or occupant. Hunters are required to make a reasonable attempt to recover wounded wildlife, but they cannot pursue wounded wildlife onto private property without first making a reasonable attempt to contact the owner.
> In most cases, Colorado hunters that take big game with firearms are required to wear daylight fluorescent orange garments meeting certain requirements.
> Colorado hunters are generally not allowed to hunt from a motor vehicle; using aircraft; using electronic communications devices; using artificial light, night vision, or thermal imaging devices; using explosives or poisons; by placing food or edible waste in the open with the intent of luring bears; or remotely using computers.
Hunting violations are a serious problem with 1,211 citations issued in Summit County alone between 2001-2010. Colorado has a program called Operation Game Thief (OGT) that pays cash rewards to citizens who turn in poachers. The contact information is (877) COLOOGT, (877) 265-6648 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noah Klug is principal of The Klug Law Firm, LLC, located in Summit County. His practice focuses on business, real estate and litigation. He may be reached at (970) 468-4953 or Noah@TheKlugLawFirm.com.