Illegal hunting is the illegal trapping, shooting, and taking of game or fish from public or private property. Perpetrators of this crime commit it mainly for commercial profit, which means they kill animals illegally and sell their parts and hides. Illegal hunting has led to a serious reduction and even extinction of many species. This year, it was determined that 8 out of 10 elephant deaths are caused by poachers. In 2011, 73 million sharks were killed for their fins. In 2011, more than 440 rhinos were poached for their horns. This year the number has already reached 281 and the year’s just a little over half over. The black market value of poaching and wildlife smuggling is $32 billion.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) has consistently played a major role in the illegal hunting issue. Their mission is to protect, preserve, enhance, and manage wildlife for the use, benefit, and enjoyment of people of the state as well as visitors. The DOW enacts wildlife laws to attend to three purposes: public safety, wildlife management, and ethical considerations. The DOW has wildlife officers and certified peace officers that maintain a presence in local communities by checking for proper hunting licenses and assisting in emergency situations regarding wildlife.
Perry Will is the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Area Wildlife Manager and Supervisor. Perry works in the Glenwood Springs area and has been working with the Division for over 30 years. In 1996, Perry received the John D. Hart Wildlife Officer of the Year award. This is the highest honor given by the DOW.
The DOW utilizes a strategic plan that contains Management Principles, which provide guidance to the agency in establishing and employing their goals. The plan is divided into hunting, fishing, wildlife awareness, and wildlife species management and habitat. There are 42 desired achievements and the DOW hopes to accomplish them all. Colorado is also part of the Wildlife Interstate Violator Compact, which indicates that violators can be held accountable across state lines for violation of wildlife laws. It includes 34 other states in addition to Colorado.
The DOW has identified that its biggest challenge is targeting illegal hunting and other illegal activities committed against the wildlife of Colorado. It is so difficult to catch poachers as they use a variety of techniques to disguise what they are doing. They often use thermal imaging devices, radios, ATVs, and GPS to increase their ability to poach without being discovered.
DOW officers work long, hard hours to catch these poachers and bring them to justice. They use their own technological resources and organize team efforts throughout Colorado. DOW officers have specialized training and are educated in security and handling. Field patrol by wildlife officers is extremely important as it provides direct contact and exchanges of information to those with licenses. Officers contact those that are actively involved in hunting to check for licenses. The DOW also tries to educate the public and get them to participate by reporting such crimes as the illegal taking of animals.
Through various surveys and other findings, it has become obvious that the illegal hunting issue is at the forefront of many Colorado residents’ minds. Even as far back as 1999, a survey conducted found that 78% of Colorado residents believe enforcing existing wildlife laws is a top priority for the DOW. If a Colorado citizen sees a poaching incident happen at anytime, they can report it through hotlines, such as Operation Game Thief. Residents of Colorado may also make donations to our various wildlife funds and organizations. Habitat stamps can also be purchased and each goes towards preserving every little bit of Colorado’s critical habitat. It is crucial to remember that poaching is not only a crime against animals, but also against us and the conservation of our beautiful state.
Operation Game Thief is a Colorado Parks and Wildlife program. It pays rewards to citizens who turn in poachers. People who call the hotline do not need to reveal their names. Any reports, from big game to fish, are strongly encouraged if seen. Since 1981, the program has received more than 2,400 reports of poaching and convicted 700 violators. This has led to the seizure and release of more than 1,300 illegally-taken animals. Crimes can be reported to Operation Game Thief through email or by phone at 1-877-COLO-OGT.
You can visit the DOW’s website at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/Pages/Home.aspx Also, the Colorado Wildlife Federation: http://www.coloradowildlife.org/ Colorado Wildlife Action Plan: http://www.wildlifeactionplan.org/colorado.html To view more on programs, such as Operation Game Thief, also visit the DOW website. Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation: http://www.cwhf.info/ The Colorado Wildlife Federation and the Heritage Foundation will gladly accept donations towards any projects concerning wildlife or preservation of the animals and their habitat.
Created and compiled by: Sloane Solomon With Special Thanks to: Perry Will, Colorado Division of Wildlife