Troubling surge of poaching cases in Colorado has wildlife officers trying to keep up |

Troubling surge of poaching cases in Colorado has wildlife officers trying to keep up

Poaching numbers by nature are elusive, but last fall brought a discernible spike in wildlife infractions across the state

Kevin Simpson
The Colorado Sun
Pronghorn near Eleven Mile Reservoir outside Hartsel on Jan. 25. In Colorado, killing a pronghorn with at least 14-inch antlers without a license and tag carries a $4,000 penalty.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

On the opening morning of Colorado’s rifle pronghorn season in October, one of many hunters roaming the undulating, wide-open terrain in Eleven Mile State Park near Hartsel witnessed a series of events he found troubling — and possibly evidence of a crime.

First, he noticed two people stalking a pronghorn herd in the vicinity, though only one of them carried a rifle. That individual fired once, then changed angles and fired again — each time appearing to down an animal. As the hunter approached the pair, they appeared to suddenly veer away as if to avoid him. Later, he found a doe lying lifeless, fully intact but for a gunshot wound while, perhaps 100 yards away, he spotted the carcass of another doe partially stripped of its meat. 

Suspicious, he called in a report to Colorado Parks and Wildlife that found its way to Ian Petkash, a district wildlife manager who patrols over 590 square miles of picturesque terrain within Park County out of his base in Lake George. It added to an already busy caseload. 

“This year was far and away the busiest year I’ve had,” Petkash says, “especially for egregious cases, felony-level cases. I don’t have an explanation on why this year was so bad. I’ve kind of wracked my brain trying to find a pattern.”


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