POACHING AND ITS PROBLEMS
Written by Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Manager Mike Brown, Kim/Pritchett.
With some fall hunting seasons underway and many just around the corner, wildlife officers are often asked about the problems they anticipate and how prevalent poaching is within a particular area. Obviously these answers may vary widely, depending upon a number of circumstances such as: the time of year, geographic area, and the number or types of wildlife species present. While poaching may be defined as the illegal hunting or killing of wildlife, its true definition encompasses a broad spectrum of violations that rob wildlife from the people of the state of Colorado.
As a Wildlife Officer, I define poaching as the illegal take or possession of any nongame , fish, and game wildlife. Flagrant poachers often take wildlife such as deer and elk out of season or at night via the use of a spotlight, while others attempt to buy resident hunting and fishing licenses as a non-resident, defrauding the state of Colorado license revenue proceeds that are used for wildlife management, or habitat enhancement. While the exact numbers of illegally taken wildlife are unknown on an annual basis, many research studies have estimated that poachers illegally take as much game wildlife as legally licensed hunters do throughout a hunting season.
If you walk into a coffee shop or stop and talk with a group of hunters over a campfire you’ll often hear them discussing the previous year’s hunts or bragging about the largest deer or elk they’ve taken. If you ask them to tell their hunting story, you can instantly see the excitement and pride on their face as they reflect back upon their hunt. Oftentimes, you’ll re-live the hunt with them as they recollect and tell the story of the largest deer of their life or their first harvest.
As sportsmen and hunters we hunt for numerous reasons. These reasons include being able to observe wildlife without being observed, to enjoy the woods with family and friends, or to even enjoy them alone. Regardless of the reasons, hunters enjoy every moment and cherish the experience. As my dad always told me “You have to pay your dues and work hard to make the hunt totally come together, but when it does there’s nothing more satisfying.” Through years of hunting by myself and with my father or friends I’ve often observed wildlife during the early morning or late evening twilight hours. Looking back, each experience holds a special memory, regardless of the harvest. I’d often think to myself, “You only get the chance to experience this so many times throughout your life.”
At the sight of game we often experience chills, goose bumps, and a rapidly elevated heart rate. The adrenaline rush is strong enough for hunters to forget about the weather, the fact that you can’t feel your hands or even the problems that arise throughout life. For most of us this adrenaline rush that stops us in our tracks is why we choose to hunt and pursue wild game. If we’re lucky enough to harvest an animal during this adrenaline dumping period, success is bittersweet since our ultimate goal is to defeat every sense of our quarry and harvest that animal in its own environment. The pride and satisfaction that comes with a successful hunt is often tough to put into words. Legal and ethical hunters brag about their success each year, and they rightfully should.
What motivates people to poach? Poachers have a wide range of motivations. Many want to experience the adrenaline rush, much like legal and ethical hunters, while others simply want to brag about having the biggest and the best. These individuals poach to fuel their ego, and season dates, ethics, and any wildlife regulations are left far behind. Other people poach for monetary profit. The illegal antler trade often drives commercial poaching activities and large monetary incentives give poachers a justification to risk robbing wildlife from the people of the state of Colorado, despite substantial fines and penalties.
With some fall hunting seasons underway and others getting ready to start I hope that folks can understand that wildlife officers cannot be in all places at all times and that wildlife violations usually have few witnesses, if any. I ask that citizens and landowners in Colorado report any suspicious or illegal activity by calling their local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office, local wildlife officer, or Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648.
If you witness a violation provide all the information you can. Details that might seem insignificant often help in solving cases. I always tell people to provide a vehicle description but most importantly get a license plate number. I always urge people to also try and note other details such as the location in which the violation happened, as well as identifying features of the individuals involved, (age, height weight, hair color, clothing, etc.) If you know how an animal was illegally taken or where the animal is currently at, call Operation Game Thief. Get any and all information relayed as quickly as possible to aid in apprehending violators.
With the help of citizens in Colorado, wildlife officers can continue battling poaching while managing wildlife resources. Next time you see a spotlight working or witness someone shoot from a public road will you look the other way? When someone poaches it hurts everyone and negatively influences wildlife management. After all, everyone only gets so many moments throughout their life to enjoy wildlife. Will you let poaching take that moment away from you?
District Wildlife Manager Kim/Prichett
For more news about Colorado Parks and Wildlife go to: http://cpw.state.co.us
For more information about Colorado Parks and Wildlife go to: http://cpw.state.co.us.