Preventing poaching


It was disappointing news hearing that a Craig resident was involved in the illegal killing of a bighorn ram last December.

Here in Moffat County, where hunting is so vital to the local economy, we expect our own to set a good example when it comes to following hunting laws.

In another recently publicized case, a Los Angeles sheriff's deputy was fined $4,199 for illegally killing a deer after dark on private land near Bayfield last October, which goes to show that even an officer of the law can be tempted to take an animal illegally.

But the bighorn poaching incident is especially troublesome because it involved a species trying to gain a toehold in southern Moffat County. The ram was the only bighorn spotted in the Axial Basin before it was killed.

"When you see a species trying to establish somewhere new, it's a pretty big deal," said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton. "The Division of Wildlife actively works with a number of federal agencies, sportsmen's groups and other entities to establish populations of things like Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in areas they may have existed before or where there's suitable habitat."

Poaching can be a significant setback to the DOW's attempts to help certain species flourish. The DOW estimates that the illegal taking of big game could be as high as the number of animals harvested legally.

"We have rules and regulations in place for much bigger reasons than to hamper someone's enjoyment of hunting," Hampton added.

"We give out licenses based on certain objectives to manage a big-game herd. If people play outside those lines, it's impossible to manage Colorado's big game."

The Craig poacher and his accomplice not only flouted the law, they pre-empted the possible establishment of a herd that might have paid dividends for everyone down the line.

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