Wyoming Prime Elk Area is Hit by Poachers

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Wildlife officers are frustrated with illegal elk hunting taking place in hunt area 113, the Rochelle Hills southeast of Wright, and warn poachers that severe penalties await those who get caught.

Elk area 113 is managed for trophy elk area and is only open to hunt bulls every three years, with it being open again in 2007. The area does not open until Nov. 5 for the 2007 hunting season, yet the Wyoming Game and Fish Department reports that at least five elk – four bulls and a cow – have been illegally killed in the area since Sept. 1.

"This is a limited quota area and no general license hunters should be in this area for elk," said Douglas Game Warden Rod Lebert, referring to general license area 129 which opened Sept. 1 and borders area 113 on the east and west.

Newcastle Game Warden Dustin Shorma shares Lebert's frustration. "Most of the elk have been killed right on Antelope Creek, which cuts the hunt area in half, and it's right in the dead center, not on the boundaries of the hunt area," Shorma said.

Elk area 113 includes a large piece of public land in eastern Wyoming and is coveted by hunters with the odds of drawing a bull tag only 7 percent for residents and 1 percent or less for nonresidents.

Because it is open country, elk are very visible and are often seen standing along roads, making them easy to find. "There are some big bull elk in this country and it’s a fun place to hunt," Shorma said.

Lebert said there is a chronic problem with hunters crossing into area 113 from surrounding general license area 129. Cases in the past few years involved elk that had only the antlers and best cuts of meat removed. "There are a lot of unsolved cases in this area so if you know someone who has poached in this area in the past then turn them in," Lebert said. "This is your resource you are hurting by not reporting these poachings."

Wardens urge hunters to read the written description of the hunt area boundaries that is provided in the 2007 Elk Hunting Regulations. "Hunters need to know where they are at," Shorma said. "Don't just take someone's word for it. Read the boundary description in the regulations and know where you are at."

Lebert also cautions hunters to avoid mistakes by unknowingly hunting in the wrong hunt area. "Get a forest service map because all the roads are marked," he said. "Then take a pen, read the description, and mark the boundaries on your map."

Stiff penalties await those illegally killing elk in area 113. At the minimum, a poacher could be fined $780 and lose hunting privileges for up to 3 years for killing an elk during a closed season. Poachers killing a bull elk in a closed area could potentially be subjected to the trophy statute, which carries a minimum fine of $5,000 and mandatory 5-year suspension of hunting privileges.

Anyone who witnesses a wildlife crime should call the Stop Poaching tip line at (877) WGFD-TIP. Lebert encourages anyone calling the tip line to be alert and gather as much specific information about a violation as possible. "Try to document the date, time, location and specific nature of the violation. Include a physical description of the suspected violator or include contact information if possible, as well as a license plate number and description of any vehicles involved in the incident."

Informants can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.