The recent poaching arrest of four men from South Carolina by Colorado Parks and Wildlife has prompted public discussion and debate about the importance of ethical hunting. It also illustrates how seriously the agency, law-abiding hunters and many residents of the state take illegal wildlife activity.
After a lengthy investigation by state and federal wildlife officials, George Plummer, Michael Courtney, Joseph Nevling and James Cole were arrested Sept. 7 near Collbran for suspicion of violating a variety of wildlife laws including using a powerful toxin attached to their arrows, hunting after legal hours, using bow-mounted electronic or battery-powered devices and hunting bear, deer and elk over bait.
"In Colorado, wildlife regulations exist for three main reasons," said Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde. "There are biological reasons, safety reasons and 'fair chase' considerations. The use of poisons or toxicants to hunt is a very unethical method of hunting, violating the tenets of fair chase and can also be very dangerous to the user."
Velarde adds that the use of poisons and toxicants allows an individual to take an irresponsible shot, relying on the effects of the drugs to kill the animal rather than skill, patience, discipline and a well-placed shot.
During the course of the yearlong investigation, the four men were placed under surveillance by investigators from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Because of the overwhelming amount of incriminating evidence investigators gathered, the four men quickly pleaded guilty to the illegal activity. Plummer, who is considered the leader of the group, admitted to officers that he had used poisoned arrows in Colorado for the past twenty years while fully aware that it is illegal in this state.
The four accepted a plea bargain and agreed to pay over $10,000 in fines for the use of the toxicant and for illegal possession of big game. They forfeited all evidence seized in the case, including four Mathews compound bows, arrows and quivers, an ATV, night vision goggles, flashlights mounted on their bows, coolers containing game meat, animal hides, the poison and the arrow-mounted pods used to inject the drug into the elk, deer and bear they killed. More....