Investigation nets poachers

Three charged nearly 10 months after elk-killing incident in Moffat County

Advertisement

Three people have been cited in an elk poaching incident that took place last Nov. 30 on the Big Gulch ranch seven miles north of Craig.
]
Jason L. Axtell, 26 of Lakewood and Aaron D. Olson 18 of Arvada were each cited for allegedly killing five elk each and a 17-year-old juvenile was cited for killing one elk.
]
The people charged were participating in the ranching for wildlife program at the time of the incident.
]
According to The Colorado Division of Wildlife district wildlife manager Mike Bauman, the incident was reported by the people that were overseeing the ranching for wildlife program.
]
"Ranch employees reported the incident and provided information critical to our investigation," said Bauman. "We would not have been able to complete this investigation without their help."
]
Bauman said that the three people charged in the incident fired a large number of shots from up to 300 yards away at a herd of 50 elk in a small basin.
]
"This was a classic example of taking irresponsible shots at elk," said Bauman. "Large animals like elk don't always go down immediately, and hunters should not fire at another animal until they're sure the first animal they fired at has not been hit."
]
After the shooting spree, 10 elk had been killed and three wounded animals were found within the next few days near the site where the incident occurred.
]
Bauman said that the reason the charges were not filed until now was that ballistics tests on bullets taken from the dead elk took more than six months to complete.
]
If convicted, the juvenile would face a $1,000 fine and $370 surcharge for victims assistance. Axtell and Olson could face more penalties if convicted of killing five elk each. People convicted of killing three or more big game animals face a minimum fine of $1,000 per animal plus the surcharge and a maximum fine of $10,000 per animal and up to a year in county jail.
]
14th Judicial District deputy district attorney, David Waite has not seen any information on the cases.
]
"I assume that it is misdemeanor charges," said Waite. "If it was felony charges it would have come through us. I was kind of surprised; I expected to look at felony charges."
]
Spokesperson for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Todd Malmsbury, said the crime did not fall under wildlife statutes for felonies. Under wildlife statues only three crimes can bring felony charges, illegal outfitting, illegal sale of wildlife and willful destruction of wildlife. None of these charges would have fit the crimes committed by any of the three hunters in this case according to Malmsbury.
]
"This is still a very serious misdemeanor," said Malmsbury.
]
Neither Axtell or Olson could be reached Wednesday morning for comment.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.