Colorado: Poaching investigation ends with convictions

Michigan men hit with fines, banned from Colorado for 5 years

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A Colorado elk herd. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Three Michigan men who poached elk, bear and bobcats in Colorado have been convicted and sentenced for their crimes after a long-running investigation by wildlife officials in both states.

In all, the investigation implicated eight men, including several from Colorado, who were engaged in systematic violations of game laws during illegal hunts that took place in the King Mountain area of southern Routt County in Colorado. Continue reading

Colorado: Drones eyed for greater sage-grouse monitoring

Public invited to learn more about the use of unmanned aircraft at a demonstration in Kremmling

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone. USGS photo.

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone in the San Luis Valley as part of an effort to monitor sandhill cranes.  USGS photo.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — State and federal scientists may use small drones to monitor greater sage-grouse in their breeding grounds, and will offer the public a chance to see how the technology works starting next week.

The planned test flights are a collaboration between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey. The agencies will conduct test flights to evaluate whether the small unmanned aircraft can save time and money and offer a safer and enhanced alternative to gather greater sage-grouse data.

The low-flying aircraft may be able to get more detailed counts of the threatened birds, and may even help biologists find previously unknown leks.

“The aircraft proved successful in other recent wildlife inventory projects conducted by USGS,” said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Hot Sulphur Springs. “We are interested to see if greater sage-grouse will tolerate the craft flying near their leks at the lower altitudes necessary to provide useful data.” Continue reading

Summit County: State biologists want your input on fishing

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Fishing at the Dillon Marina.

Public meeting set for March 18 at Silverthorne library

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Fishing season is right around the corner, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists want input from local anglers on fish management in Summit County’s lakes, reservoirs and streams.

“In addition to science and biology, we rely on the public’s input for our wildlife management decisions and strategies,” said Jon Ewert, aquatic Biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Hot Sulphur Springs. “We want to make decisions the public will support, so we encourage everyone to come out and tell us what they think.”

Ewert said this week’s meeting at the Silverthorne library (Monday, March 18, 6:30 p.m.) upcoming meeting at the  will function as a “data workshop” which he describes as being effective in encouraging discussion and interaction between the agency and sportsmen. Continue reading

Colorado: Greater sage-grouse viewing tours offered

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Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy Brian Currie/Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

State biologists team up with Conservation Colorado to offer wildlife-friendly bird watching

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — From afar, the wide-open sagebrush steppes of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau can look stark and daunting, but each spring, the region comes to life with the mating ritual of greater sage-grouse.

The birds gather in traditional mating grounds, called leks, where the males spread their impressive tail feathers and strut while inflating and popping giant air sacs on their necks to impress the females.

The best available science suggests that greater sage-grouse qualify for endangered species status and studies are under way to develop the best possible conservation plans. Continue reading

Colorado: Biologists launch bighorn sheep study

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Bighorn sheep in Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Tracking Aspen-area herds may help conservation efforts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With bighorn sheep herds in the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness declining due to respiratory disease, Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers want to know if interaction with domestic sheep herds is a factor.

To track the movements of bighorn sheep in Pitkin and Gunnison counties, biologists and wildlife technicians recently captured 10 bighorn sheep rams and fitted them with special collars that will transmit location data. The operation was the start of a new, cooperative study with the U.S. Forest Service to monitor the movements and distribution of rams from three herds in the area. Continue reading

Colorado: Meeker outfitter gets jail time for baiting game

Outfitter Dennis Eugene Rodebaugh sentenced to 41 months in prison for numerous wildlife violations

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A Colorado hunting will lose his business, go to jail and pay big fines for baiting deer and elk. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a classic tale of poacher versus game warden, a Meeker man apparently carried on a hunting business using illegal baiting to lure wildlife for his out-of-state clients, perhaps for as long as 20 years.

After other local residents tipped them off, state and federal agents launched an eight-year investigation that culminated last week, when U.S. District Court Judge Christine Arguello sentencing Dennis Eugene Rodebaugh, 72, owner of D & S Outfitters of Meeker, to 41 months in federal prison. He must also pay $37,390 in restitution to the state and forfeit two all-terrain vehicles and a trailer used in the commission of his crimes.

In September 2012, a federal jury in Denver found Rodebaugh guilty of six felony violations of the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits the transportation of illegally taken wildlife across state lines.

Baiting wildlife is illegal in Colorado and most of Rodebaugh’s clients were out-of-state hunters. As part of his sentence, Rodebaugh must also pay a $7500 fine that will go to the Lacey Act Reward Fund.

“This individual showed grievous disregard for wildlife laws, a considerable lack of ethics and he never expressed remorse,” said lead investigator Bailey Franklin, district wildlife manager in Meeker. “It took tremendous resources and man-hours to bring him to justice and we are very satisfied with the sentence.” Continue reading

Colorado: New wildlife roundtable forming

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Colorado mule deer browsing. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

State resource managers seek input from hunters and anglers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —With deer herds in northwestern Colorado declining and the state’s trout likely facing another long, dry summer, wildlife managers may be looking at some tough choices in the months ahead.

To get some input from active hunters and anglers in the region, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is putting together regional caucuses to meet and discuss wildlife issues with managers, biologists and agency officials, with an upcoming meeting set for Feb. 20 in Grand Junction (6 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel, 755 Horizon Drive).

In addition to the wildlife-related discussion, attendees will select two delegates to represent the region’s wildlife concerns at the newly formed Sportsmen’s Roundtable to be held in Denver next month. The roundtable will provide hunters and anglers from the four regions of the state with direct access to agency officials, including wildlife commissioners. Continue reading

Colorado game managers seek ‘malicious moose poacher’

Grand County killing described as an ‘egregious act’

A moose cow and two calves browse near the base of Berthoud Pass in this Aug. 2010 file photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say they are launching an all-out investigation to apprehend the person or persons responsible for killing a cow moose and her two calves in Grand County.

“This is an outrageous incident,” said Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “My officers are preparing an all-out effort to find the person or persons responsible and bring them to justice. At this point, we have no reason to believe this was an accident,” Velarde said. “The case is being investigated as a malicious poaching incident.” Continue reading

Colorado: Elk poacher hit with $11,500 fine

Grand County case solved with help from hunters

Bull elk, Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo courtesy Kim Fenske.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A West Virginia man will pay an $11,500 fine for poaching Colorado wildlife. The fine includes a $10,000 penalty that applies when trophy-quality wildlife is poached — in this case a 6×6 bull elk taken on Devil’s Thumb Ranch property in Tabernash earlier this month.

David Lee Burner, 61, was cited for “hunting on private property without permission” and “illegal possession” of the elk after wildlife officers got a tip from another hunter.

“We first received a tip from a concerned hunter who witnessed a suspected trespassing incident in Devil’s Thumb Ranch,” said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager in Hot Sulphur Springs. “After the ranch owners found evidence of trespass on their property, they informed us and then assisted us in the investigation.” Continue reading

Colorado biologists planning statewide lynx assessment

Habitat occupancy assessment to help monitor status of population

A lynx in the wilds of Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists say they’re close to finalizing a plan to monitor the state’s lynx population by assessing habitat occupancy. If successful, the strategy would enable researchers to determine whether the population of endangered wild cats is sustaining itself over time.

The habitat occupancy model was tested in a pilot program in core lynx habitat in the San Juans a couple of years ago, showing that about 50 to 60 percent of the available lynx habitat is occupied. Now the biologists are trying to figure out if they can use the same method to keep tabs on lynx across the entire state.

Lynx have been listed as a threatened species since 2000, with a population in New Mexico currently under consideration for listing as a candidate species. Colorado launched a restoration program in 1999, transplanting more than 200 lynx from Canada and Alaska to the San Juans.

The reintroduction effort was declared a success about two years ago, after 10 years of intensive monitoring, with on-the ground visits to lynx dens, as well as tracking via airplanes and satellites. The tracking shows that the population has spread northward, with resident, breeding lynx up through the Collegiate Range and even into Summit County, with pockets of populations north of I-70.

In a draft report on the pilot study, biologists said it’s not feasible to accurately estimate population numbers, but assessing habitat use and occupancy can help determine whether the population is stable, growing or declining — and might also show trends in habitat use, for example in response to changing forest conditions. Colorado Parks and Wildlife lynx research is online here. Continue reading

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