Michigan Man Fined for Poaching In Colorado
A Michigan man was fined $15,000 after being convicted of three charges related to killing a Colorado mountain goat without a license.
Burt Vincent, 60, of Jackson, Mich., also faces a potential lifetime suspension of his hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado, Michigan and 28 other states.
Vincent pleaded "no contest" in Chaffee County Court on Dec. 10 to illegal possession of a mountain goat, illegally killing a trophy animal in Colorado and hunting a mountain goat without a license.
Two others, Jack and Susan Derr of Florissant, Colo., also pleaded guilty to multiple misdemeanor charges related to Vincent's case and other wildlife crimes discovered during the investigation. The Derrs were ordered to pay $10,000 to the Colorado Operation Game Thief Fund.
The convictions marked an end to a two-year investigation into multiple poaching incidents.
"This case demonstrates how effectively law enforcement professionals from multiple agencies work together," said Shaun Deeney, an area manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) in Colorado Springs
Investigators in Colorado and Michigan began working on the case in 2006 after an informant said that Vincent was in possession of a mountain goat from Colorado. However, there was no record in Colorado showing that Vincent was ever issued a mountain goat hunting license.
Based on the original tip, an undercover officer contacted Vincent at his place of work in Michigan. Vincent told the undercover agent that he had killed a mountain goat, adding that he had also killed a bighorn ram and a bighorn ewe in Colorado over the past several years.
The undercover officer had hoped Vincent would talk about the mountain goat, but didn't expect to hear about the two bighorn sheep.
"Bighorn sheep and mountain goats are majestic symbols of Colorado's high country," said Deeney. "Sheep and goat tags are among the most highly prized hunting licenses in Colorado. Every year, thousands of applicants vie for a just a handful of tags. Vincent and his codefendants literally cheated law-abiding hunters out of a chance for the hunt of a lifetime."
Wildlife investigators followed a trail that led them Vincent's hunting partner Jack Derr. DOW records showed that Derr bought a mountain goat license in 2006. The DOW license database also showed that Jack's wife, Susan Derr, bought bighorn sheep licenses in 2000 and 2003. This matched Vincent's claim that he killed a bighorn ram and ewe.
Armed with several key pieces of information, two DOW officers interviewed the Derrs at their home in Florissant, Colo., and executed a search warrant on the residence. Meanwhile, Vincent was questioned by Conservation Officers from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and special investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Michigan.
In tape-recorded interviews, Susan Derr admitted that she let Vincent use her bighorn ram license in 2003 and her bighorn ewe license in 2000. She stated that she did not kill those animals but that Vincent did. Jack Derr also admitted that he gave Vincent his 2006 license to tag a mountain goat that Vincent killed.
During the investigation, Vincent admitted that his rifle was used to kill the mountain goat, but claimed Jack Derr did the shooting. He further claimed that Derr gave him the mountain goat to take back to Michigan because Derr didn't want it.
"The officers who conducted this investigation should be complimented on their thoroughness," said Deeney. "All of the officers involved acted professionally and courteously throughout the entire investigation despite accusations of impropriety by the defendants."
In addition to the mountain goat violation, investigators also discovered a case involving an illegal elk killed by Vincent in 2005 in Archuleta County. Vincent was found guilty in that case last August. He was fined $2,800 for that crime.
Deeney expressed his gratitude to the investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and prosecutors from the district attorneys' offices in Chaffee, Fremont, Teller, Archuleta, and Larimer counties for their help getting the convictions.
Colorado and Michigan are members of an Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which includes 30 states that offer some of the very best hunting and fishing hunting and fishing opportunities in the country. The compact includes provisions that establish reciprocal license privilege suspension by member states. Anyone who loses hunting and fishing privileges in one state is also suspended in the others. Colorado was a charter state in 1991 along with Nevada and Oregon.
Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact Member States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.