The Colorado Division of Wildlife is investigating two elk-poaching cases in western Moffat County.
The first incident occurred Jan. 21 at about midnight, according to the division.
Someone shot a large bull elk on Colorado Highway 64, south of Dinosaur near mile marker 2. The animal's head was removed, and its body was left to rot on the side of the road, according to the division.
The second incident occurred in mid- to late December in the Wild Mountain area along the Utah border, near Dinosaur National Monument.
Two bull elk were killed, and the carcasses were left in a pile under a tree. The antlers had been removed, and the remaining carcasses went to waste, according to the division.
Poachers commonly remove antlers from animals and waste the rest, Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said.
Poaching is usually a crime of opportunity, he said.
"They see a large animal, and typically, they don't have the skill to get one during hunting season," Hampton said.
The winter months typically bring with them an increase in poaching activity because snow pushes animals into valleys, near communities and along roadways.
Animals that survive season after hunting season are much more vulnerable as they seek out available food during the winter, according to the division.
The division takes poaching incidents very seriously, Hampton said. But in premier hunting units, such as the ones in which poaching incidents occurred, local sportsmen also take the incidents seriously, he said.
Hunters wait for years before they can obtain a license to hunt in premier units.
"They don't make a lot of friends in the sportsmen community either," Hampton said about poachers.
The division asks the public for help in both cases.
Wildlife officers say they hope someone traveling through the areas may have seen suspicious activity. It is also possible that someone overheard another person talking about these crimes.
If anyone has any information regarding these poaching incidents of big game, they should contact the Meeker Division of Wildlife Office at (970) 878-6090 or call the Operation Game Thief hotline, toll-free at 1 (877) 265-6648.
Operation Game Thief offers cash rewards to people who provide information leading to an arrest or citations issued in wildlife cases.
The program allows callers to remain anonymous, and tipsters are not required to testify in court.
Information received in these cases may also qualify under the division's "Turn in Poachers" program. The program allows a caller to receive preference points or a license to hunt in the area where the poaching incidents occurred.
Because these crimes occurred in premier game management units, a caller could receive a rare opportunity to hunt there.
Under the TIP program, a caller would be required to give their name and testify in the event of a court case.
Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notify the Division of Wildlife as soon as possible. Call Operation Game Thief at 1 (877) 265-6648 or contact the local Division of Wildlife office. The sooner the state receives information, the more likely the perpetrator will be caught.
Take note of the time the incident occurred and the exact location. Global Positioning System coordinates are the best option, but buildings, mile markers, guard rails, fences and other landmarks can help officers quickly find locations.
Write down a detailed description of vehicles in the area. License plate numbers are the best way to find a vehicle, but also note the make, model and color. Also, look for identifiers such as two-door or four-door, camper shell or trailer, and any identifiable bumper stickers or dents.
Get a good description of the suspect or suspects. What are they wearing? Do they walk with a limp, smoke or have a jacket with a strange logo on it?
Observe from a distance and never confront someone who is committing a crime.
Source: Colorado Division of Wildlife