Two arrested for participation in poaching operation | SummitDaily.com

Two arrested for participation in poaching operation

Summit Daily staff report

Two Florida men have pleaded guilty to illegal possession of big game animals and willful destruction of wildlife after an anonymous tip led to their arrest for participating in an illegal poaching operation in Colorado.

The two men — later identified as Timothy Draper, 32, and Lawrence Cowart, 29 —killed at least three mule deer and six pronghorn in Elbert and Lincoln counties. According to the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife, the offenders were allegedly killing the animals and shipping their heads to a taxidermist in Florida for mounting, in some cases simply decapitating the animals and leaving their torsos on-site.

Parks and Wildlife worked with the Colorado Springs Police Department, the Limon Police Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office to make the arrests following an anonymous tip through Operation Game Thief.

"As the agency responsible for perpetuation of the wildlife resources of the state, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will not tolerate poaching," said Frank McGee, wildlife manager for the Pikes Peak region. "These men are not hunters by any definition. In the eyes of CPW, and the law, they are criminals who were engaged in illegal killing of wildlife."

In October, Draper pleaded guilty to illegal possession of three or more big game animals. Earlier this week, Cowart pleaded guilty to a Class 5 felony of willful destruction of wildlife. As part of their plea agreements, both men surrendered the trophy heads as well as several firearms used in the poaching.

McGee said that an investigation is still ongoing, and that more arrests and misdemeanor citations could follow as officials continue following leads in the case. McGee went on to praise the individual who came forward with the tip to Operation Game Thief, CPW's poaching hotline.

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"We depend on the public to report suspicious activity," McGee said. "We have a limited staff. It's critical we get help from the public to stop crimes against wildlife. This is a great example that when people call, we respond."

Anyone with information about possible crimes against wildlife is encouraged to call CPW, or report it anonymously to Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648.

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