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Colorado: Poachers nabbed at I-70 checkpoint

Elk near Bailey, Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO DIVISION OF WILDLIFE/JCHURCHILL.

Most hunters in compliance with regs; wildlife officials plan more highway inspections

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Colorado wildlife officials who checked hunters on I-70 in November said they were pleased that most of the people contacted during the wildlife check were in compliance with state laws and hunting regulations.

About 300 hunters were interviewed during two-day operation at Loma, west of Grand Junction. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers issues 22 citations for various infractions including illegal possession of wildlife and failing to provide evidence of the sex of their harvest. One driver is being investigated for being in possession of 78 white bass and two walleye. The source of the fish is still under investigation. Officers seized all illegally harvested wildlife.

“We were pleased but not surprised that a vast majority of the hunters and anglers we contacted were in compliance with the law,” said Check Station Supervisor and Area Wildlife Manger JT Romatzke. “We remind everyone that responsible hunters and anglers are the first line of defense for Colorado’s wildlife resources.”

During the operation, all west-bound traffic was diverted into the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Port of Entry weigh station. Wildlife officers conducted hunting and fishing satisfaction surveys, collected DNA samples from harvested big game and conducted compliance checks regarding applicable game laws.

About 1,755 vehicles entered the check station. Only vehicles whose passengers had been hunting or fishing were asked to enter the search bays. Other motorists were quickly sent on their way.

All incidents are still under investigation and a total amount of fines has not been determined pending the final disposition of the cases.

Personal contact with sportsmen — a primary goal of the check station — gave wildlife managers first-hand opinions about the current hunting season and provided valuable wildlife management information. The vast majority of sportsmen contacted not only reported their overall satisfaction with their Colorado hunting or fishing experiences, but also expressed their support for the check station.

“We understand that not everyone will be 100 percent satisfied,” said Romatzke. “But we were pleased to hear that the vast majority of our contacts had good, and in some cases, great hunting or fishing experiences in Colorado, and they understood the need for a check station.”

Approximately 120 officers participated in the 24-hour check station, including 97 from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, eight Colorado State Patrol and two Colorado State Patrol dispatchers, three Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies, nine officers from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and two Utah Department of Wildlife Resources officers.

CDOT Port of Entry weigh station authorities temporarily closed their facilities to commercial traffic, providing the space required for the large-scale operation. First responders from the Lower Valley Fire Protection District in Fruita were available for any medical emergencies.

Small-scale wildlife check stations are conducted throughout the state on smaller roads every year. However, an Interstate check station had not been held in Colorado since 1993 because of the enormous amount of resources and manpower necessary to staff these large-scale operations.

“It was a well-executed operation by all those involved,” said Area Wildlife Manager and Check Station Supervisor JT Romatzke. “We planned it for nearly five months, and it paid off, making it likely that we will conduct more of these in the future.”

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