New program targets poachers

Colorado Division of Wildlife launches TIP project this month

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The Colorado Division of Wildlife is aiming to take poachers of trophy game with a new anti-poaching initiate.

The CDOW plans to implement its new program -- Turn In Poachers, or TIP -- this month.

TIP will offer preference points or hunting licenses for highly sought game management units as a reward to persons willing to testify about the illegal killing or willful destruction of big game species or turkeys, according to a CDOW release.

"What it really does is emphasize the importance we attach to big- game laws," said Todd Malmsbury, CDOW spokesman.

TIP primarily targets poachers who take big game to sell the racks or mounts for thousands of dollars, as opposed to poachers who illegally take game to eat, Malmsbury said.

He called the former type of poaching "more sinister."

TIP will complement Operation Game Thief, which offers cash rewards up to $500 for poaching tips. Both programs are anonymous.

More often than not, hunters turn in poachers, Malmsbury said.

But of the hundreds of people who called the CDOW with poaching tips, only a dozen accepted cash rewards.

"It's an important way to provide an alternative to a cash incentive for turning in serious violators of the law related to wildlife," Eric Harper, assistant chief of law enforcement for the CDOW, said.

"This isn't going to be for somebody who has an illegal firearm in their vehicle. It only applies if there's an animal either illegally taken or possessed or for willful destruction."

Willful destruction is a felony violation that applies when a poacher knowingly shoots and leaves an animal dead or illegally shoots an animal and takes trophy parts, leaving the rest of the carcass in the field.

Under TIP, the poached animal meets the Samson law surcharge specification for trophy game, the tipster can receive a license that corresponds to the game management unit in which the animal was taken illegally.

TIP is modeled after a similar program that has worked well in Utah, Malmsbury said.

"I think the TIP program will allow our wildlife officers to make more cases and serve as a deterrent for the small percentage of hunters who do violate game laws," Wildlife Commissioner Brad Phelps said.

"When the unethical few who poach are in the field or when they arrive home, other hunters, neighbors and acquaintances will be more likely to call the CDOW because of this program," he said.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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