By Dillon Thomas
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – As ownership of and interest in drones continues to increase in 2017, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have seen an increase in illegal drone usage at state properties.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife has seen a big uptick in the number of people who are going out on hunts and bringing their drones along with them,” said Travis Duncan, spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Flying or landing a drone in all 350 state wildlife areas is against the law. Alongside illegal flying, law also prohibited hunters from using the drones to locate wildlife.
“It could be as much as $125,000 fine, if (officers) can prove you have used a drone to locate and kill an animal,” Duncan said.
Using drones to spot wildlife has been described as cheating in hunting circle.
“It really undermines fair chase ethics, and the idea that you are using an unfair advantage with wildlife,” Duncan said.
“That is very unsportsmanlike,” said Nick Quinonez, a drone owner and avid hunter. “To go and be able to fly a mile out there, and not put the actual work in, you are not giving the animals a chance.”
Law also prohibits drone usage in most state parks. Local parks like Cherry Creek and Chatfield have airfields where drones are allowed. However, airspace is restricted and the drones cannot openly fly anywhere in those parks.
While Quinonez agreed with restrictions of drone use while hunting, he felt drone videography should be allowed along scenic areas.
“I think there should be areas where you are able to do some filming,” Quinonez said.
Duncan said state law also prohibits harassing wildlife, especially with drones. Harassment of an animal was defined as anything that makes the animal change its action, upon the disturbance. Infractions include minor harassments, such as causing an animal to stop eating, in order to find out what sound is coming from the human.
Alongside making arrests and handing citations, law enforcement was also given the legal authority to confiscate drones illegally used in state wildlife areas, and parks.
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.