CRAIG, Colo. (CBS4) – Three Meeker residents pleaded guilty to poaching two trophy bull elk last fall. Colorado Parks and Wildlife was called to investigate the case on Sept. 25.
A witness reported a wounded bull elk and a suspicious truck in the Sand Wash Basin area. CPW Officer Jeff Goncalves responded and was able to link the evidence to a truck owned by Henry Musser, 18, of Meeker.
After questioning Musser, officials determined his father, John Allen Musser and a juvenile were also involved. Investigators gathered information that a second bull elk was poached by the three suspects.
CPW said the Sept. 25 poaching incident happened in part of Game Management Unit 2, where hunters can wait more than 20 years to draw a license.
“The Sand Wash case shows the importance of witnesses in helping be the eyes of wildlife across the vast and remote parts of the state,” CPW Officer Goncalves said. “We can’t be everywhere but there are many people recreating and traveling the back roads who can report to us anything they see that is suspicious.”
Officers said both poaching incidents involved large trophy elk. Fines in the case were enhanced under the state’s Samson Law, which was named after a 1,000 pound bull elk that was killed illegally in Estes Park in 1995.
Officers said John Musser tried to hide evidence in the case. He pleaded guilty and received a deferred felony sentence for tampering with evidence. In addition, John Musser pleaded guilty to hunting without a license, illegal possession of wildlife, and aggravated illegal possession of wildlife. He was ordered to perform 48 hours of community service and pay more than $15,000 in fines and court costs.
Henry Musser was ordered to 18 months of supervised probation, 48 hours of community service and more than $15,000 in fines and court costs. The juvenile will serve unsupervised probation, must perform 48 hours of community service, and pay nearly $2,000 in fines and court costs.
“Coloradans value their wildlife and we’re proud of the law enforcement officers at CPW who work hard to conserve those populations for everyone’s benefit,” explained Bill deVergie, Area Wildlife Manager for the northwest corner of the state. “Cases like these come down to citizens watching and reporting when they see or hear something. We thank the citizens who knew what to do when they noticed the poaching activity in this case.”
In addition, the three suspects were ordered to forfeit hunting equipment and they could lose hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado and 48 other states.
CPW deals with an average of 4,000 wildlife violations each year. Officers encourage anyone with information about illegal poaching to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-877-COLO-OGT. Callers can remain anonymous and eligible for a cash reward. CPW also has a program called TIPS, or Turn In Poachers, which allows people who turn in poachers to receive preference points or even licenses.