DOW presents Culverwell evidence

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— Colorado Division of Wildlife officials continued their testimony in Day 3 of Moffat County rancher Rodney Culverwell's trial.

Six DOW officials have testified about their physical examinations of dead elk on and near Culverwell's property, the Rio Ro Mo Ranch, between Craig and Lay.

Culverwell is charged with 80 poaching crimes in the deaths of 16 elk this winter, including 16 Class 5 felonies and 64 misdemeanors, which resulted from a DOW investigation in February.

Pamela Mackey, Culverwell's defense attorney from Denver, has said she intends to raise her client's right to protect his private property as the reason for killing "some" elk. She alleged they ate her client's hay and destroyed his fences this winter.

The defense has denied Culverwell's involvement in the deaths of all 16 animals.

Culverwell pleaded not guilty to all charges earlier this month.

DOW officials testified for the prosecution that they found 16 dead elk in the following locations: seven inside Culverwell's hay stackyard along U.S. Highway 40; three inside or near a hay stackyard on the north side of Culverwell's ranch; three a short distance across Highway 40 on another person's land; and three in a pasture on the west side of Culverwell's ranch.

Testimony and evidence showed DOW investigators found bullets or bullet fragments inside 11 of the elk Culverwell is charged with shooting.

Bullets were not recovered from three animals in the case. However, investigators on the stand said their examinations showed clear bullet entry wounds and internal trauma consistent with gunshots.

Photo evidence collected by the DOW depicted the wounds.

Each examination was done outside, where or near where the animal was found dead.

When Mackey asked why the animals were not taken to another place where they could be more thoroughly examined, DOW officials said they thought their examinations were sufficient.

Mackey pointed out during questioning it is now impossible to examine the bullets and determine what firearm they came from since the animals were thrown out.

In the case of one elk, DOW Wildlife Officer Garett Watson testified he and Wildlife Officer Michael Bauman found a plastic bullet tip inside the animal, but lost the evidence in the snow.

The last elk Culverwell is charged with poaching was not shot, but run over by a tractor, a fact the defense does not challenge.

Mackey said Culverwell told two DOW officers about the incident and that it was impossible to avoid the animal when it charged his tractor.

Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney with the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office, said a ballistics expert will testify today about bullets recovered from elk in the case.

Culverwell's trial is set to resume at 8:30 a.m. today.

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