Two Colorado Men Guilty of Poaching

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Two Colorado Springs men have pled guilty to hunting without a license and illegal possession of wildlife following the investigation of an elk killed on the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument on Jan. 20.

Edward Maestas, 29, and Manuel Garcia, 45, each paid fines of $2,947 and were assessed 30 points against their hunting and fishing privileges.

The case drew large-scale media attention after two out-of-state tourists who were visiting the National Monument submitted a photo of the men loading the elk onto a pickup truck. The tourists had never seen an elk before and approached the men to get a closer look. Before leaving, they took a picture as a memory of their vacation.

Once the tourists found out authorities were looking for clues in the case, they submitted their photo. "After the picture hit the papers, we got tips from citizens who were able to identify the men," said Tonya Sharp, a district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife who investigated the case.

A juvenile who was in the photo was not charged.

"This crime might have gone unsolved without the assistance of the public in identifying the suspects," said Sharp. Two citizens split the $500 reward the information they provided.

Sportsmen with more than 20 violations points can lose their privilege to purchase hunting and fishing licenses from one-year, up to a lifetime. An administrative hearing will be held to determine how long the men will be barred.

Colorado is part of an "Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact," that includes 27 other states. Anyone convicted in one of the compact states is automatically banned from hunting or fishing in the other states, too.

Anyone with information about wildlife crimes should call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. If the information they provide leads to a citation, they are eligible for a reward. The caller can remain anonymous if they wish.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is the state agency responsible for managing wildlife and wildlife habitat, as well as providing wildlife related recreation and maintaining a balance between human activities and wildlife. Funding for the Division of Wildlife comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and the habitat fees collected in conjunction with those sales. The Division does not receive tax dollars from the Colorado general fund.