Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers are seeking information about the death of a bull moose found last week near Frey Gulch Road on Tenderfoot Mountain, east of the Summit County public shooting range.
The moose reportedly died of a gunshot wound and was not field dressed, leaving the meat to waste, according to a Parks and Wildlife news release.
The moose was discovered during Colorado’s second rifle hunting season, but wildlife officers think the animal was killed during the first rifle season, which took place Oct. 12 through 16. Although the circumstances are currently unknown, officials are investigating the incident as a possible mistaken or careless kill by an elk hunter, the release stated.
Mike Porras, public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said Monday accidental or careless kills are few, but still too frequent in Colorado. Wildlife officers investigate several cases each year. However, more often than not hunters take responsibility for their actions by alerting the authorities and by properly field dressing the animal to ensure the meat doesn’t go to waste.
Although the suspect responsible has not yet stepped forward, Porras said the hunter still has an opportunity to claim responsibility. Wildlife officers are granted a lot of discretion in how they pursue charges for accidental or careless kills, Porras said, but the clock is ticking.
“We know accidents can happen and we also know there are sometimes cases in which the hunter acted carelessly, but the person that did this still has the opportunity to do the right thing and turn themselves in immediately,” Porras said. “What we’re saying here is if you let our officers know, they’re going to take that into consideration, but if you evade authorities, significant penalties are going to apply.”
According to Colorado Revised Statutes, a hunter found guilty of poaching or careless hunting could face felony charges that may result in steep fines, jail time and the suspension of their hunting privileges.
The revocation of hunting privileges would not only be enforced in Colorado, but also among the 38 partner states of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. Hunters who accrue 20 points against their license over a five-year period could have their hunting privileges suspended indefinitely, according to Colorado law.
In this case, Porras said it would not be unlikely for the hunter responsible to face waste of meat charges, which is a misdemeanor in Colorado and carries a fine of $300 and a penalty of 15 hunting license suspension points. Hunting in a careless manner, also a misdemeanor offense, is punishable by a fine of $100 to $1,000 and up to one year in the county jail.
Although several other charges could be levied against the individual if the hunter is brought to justice, the most serious could come under Colorado’s Samson Law. Charges under Samson are typically levied in cases in which a trophy animal is taken illegally. Additional fines range from $4,000 for a trophy antelope to $25,000 for a trophy big horn sheep. The illegal killing of any bull moose carries a fine of $10,000.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges the public to provide any additional information that may lead to the person or persons responsible, including personal photos of any live bull moose seen in the area since early October.
“There may be people out there who witnessed something they think is insignificant, but even the smallest detail could be that link that helps us solve the larger puzzle,” Porras said. “If anyone has any information, they are encouraged to contact us immediately.”
Persons with information can contact Operation Game Thief, a wildlife tips hotline at 877-265-6648. Callers will remain anonymous and cash rewards may be given if the information leads to a conviction, the release stated.
For more information about Operation Game Thief, visit www.wildlife.state.co.us/RulesRegs/LawEnforcement/OperationGameThief/Pages/OGT.aspx.