Craig resident pleads guilty to illegal hunting | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig resident pleads guilty to illegal hunting

Justin McCurdy receives two-year prison sentence

Craig Daily Press Staff Report

Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Moffat County District Attorney's Office recently completed an investigation and prosecution of a Craig resident for a variety of wildlife offenses.

In an agreement with the DA’s office, Justin McCurdy, 28, pleaded guilty to a count of illegal sale of wildlife, a Class 5 felony. On Tuesday, he received a two-year prison sentence and over $1,000 in fines, fees and court costs.

McCurdy was represented by the Office of the Public Defender. Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Brown prosecuted the case.

The charges stem from a lengthy investigation conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officers Mike Swaro and Evan Jones. Investigators discovered that McCurdy, a twice-convicted felon, illegally possessed a firearm between March 2013 and November 2013 and used it to kill large and small game in Browns Park.

McCurdy's hunting privileges in Colorado had been suspended, and the investigation revealed that after poaching large and small game he would sell the wildlife hides and parts for economic gain. McCurdy also engaged in the illegal leg-hold trapping of wildlife.

In addition to trapping wildlife, the investigation indicated that several dogs belonging to a local rancher were also caught in the leg-hold traps and remained trapped for several days.

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"Hunting is a critical part of the Moffat County economy. Those who violate hunting laws, as Mr. McCurdy has done, undermine this vital industry and will be held accountable," said District Attorney Brett Barkey, in a press release from his office. "The plea agreement with Mr. McCurdy and his prison sentence does just that. We greatly appreciate the efforts of Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers in investigating this case and bringing it to a successful conclusion."

McCurdy must also meet with a CPW Hearings Officer where he may receive up to a lifetime suspension of hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado and 43 Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact States.

“This was an individual who clearly needed to be brought to justice and we are satisfied with how the case was resolved,” said Swaro in a release from CPW's Meeker office. “This case should send a strong message to those who steal the wildlife resource from the citizens of Colorado that they face stiff punishment, especially when trying to profit from their illegal activities.”

Swaro noted that fellow CPW officer Jones, of Craig, received a tip from a citizen that eventually led them to McCurdy and his activities. Swaro said tips like these are often the missing pieces of a puzzle that helps an officer solve a case and bring a violator to justice.

“Poachers are selfish criminals that negatively impact the wildlife populations that are important to our local economy,” Swaro said. “We have some of the best, high-quality hunting and wildlife in this area. In order to help protect it, we encourage the public to let us know right away if they learn about illegal activities involving wildlife."

To anonymously provide information about a wildlife violation, the public can contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards are available if the information leads to a conviction. For more information about Operation Game Thief, visit http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/OGT.aspx.