HOWL Colorado

Stolen game: Poachers killing wildlife for trophy parts

[thumbnail icon url=”stolen-game-poachers-killing-wildlife-for-trophy-parts” filename=”news” year=”2009″ month=”11″ day=”20″] KUSA-TV investigative reporter Deborah Sherman looks into illegal hunting in Colorado, including a particularly disturbed undercover video.

DENVER – The video shows two men twirling their guns, shooting from a moving ATV and drunkenly falling over barbed-wire fences to collect their trophies. The men joke with each other as they break the law and illegally kill animals.

“This sure ain’t legal, but [expletive] it!” Mike Battaglia said on the video. “This is what we do out here in Maybell, Colorado on our day off.”

Battaglia would eventually plead guilty to charges of poaching. The video was taken by an undercover investigator for the Colorado Division of Wildlife trying to catch people like Battaglia.

The number of poachers ignoring wildlife laws and killing big game for their antlers or other trophy parts is on the rise across Colorado, according to the DOW. Officers say the two factors driving poachers are ego and money.

“We say they have the disease. And to these people, capturing and killing wildlife for ego or for profit is all-consuming,” said Jay Sarason, chief of law enforcement for the DOW. “They act as if they are possessed. And they will continue to do it until after they are caught.”

Field officers have discovered and heard about more kill sites this year than last year, where the head of the animal was cut off and stolen and the body of the deer, elk, antelope or big horn sheep was left behind to spoil.

Poaching harms wildlife habitats and populations and cheats hunters, photographers, hikers and nature lovers, according to the DOW. Wildlife officers write about 2,150 tickets a year to hunters; 200 are for serious poaching crimes such as for thrill-killing, hunting without licenses, and poaching or wasteful destruction.

“What we see is the aftermath of people going out and killing trophy animals and removing those trophy parts, which would be the antlers or the horns and leaving the carcasses to rot,” Sarason said. “It is so disrespectful to the wildlife and gives hunting a bad name.”

Antlers are valuable. They can earn poachers hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars per mount.

“Some people do it purely as a business. They’ve detached from their activity. It’s just pure dollars and cents. They don’t see wildlife as anything other than something you can buy and make a buck,” Sarason said.

Wildlife officers believe they only catch the tip of the iceberg of the poaching… [read the full story]

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