CO: Craig poacher sentenced

CRAIG, Colo. – A man from Craig has pleaded no contest to
willful destruction of wildlife – a Class 5 felony – after an
extensive investigation by Colorado Division of Wildlife officers
revealed his part in a large poaching case.

Floyd Gutierrez, 63, was ordered to pay nearly $4,000 in fines
and court costs by Moffat County District Court Judge Michael
O’Hara. He was also order to make a $5,000 donation to Operation
Game Thief, the non-profit organization that pays rewards to help
solve poaching cases in Colorado. Gutierrez was also sentenced to
four years of supervised probation and could have his hunting
privileges permanently revoked pending a review by a Division of
Wildlife hearing examiner. His supervised probation could be
reduced to one year if he complies with court requirements.

“Shooting an animal and only taking the trophy parts is a very
serious crime that is essentially stealing from all of the people
of Colorado,” said Craig District Wildlife Manager Mike Swaro, who
led the investigation. “Like this one, many of the cases we
investigate come to us through tips from members of the public who
are concerned about poaching.”

The case was initiated by a tip received by Swaro in November
2008 and culminated in a search of Gutierrez’s home and work shop
early last year. During the search, investigators found hides,
animal parts, antler racks, buckets filled with animal tissue, and
meat stored in a freezer. DNA tests identified multiple animals and
trophy parts but minimal meat harvested from those kills.

“This is one of the most egregious cases I’ve worked on so far
in my career,” Swaro said.

Throughout the investigation, Gutierrez denied the charges,
despite the DNA evidence proving that he had only a few pieces of
meat from three mule deer bucks and two pronghorn bucks. “We’d
gotten quite a few previous tips that raised our suspicions so it
was good to finally get the pieces that brought this case to a
successful close,” added Swaro.

Before his plea of no contest, Gutierrez had faced 11 other
serious charges, including one count of aggravated illegal
possession of wildlife. That particular charge could have added an
additional $10,000 Samson law enhancer to Gutierrez’s fines.

The Samson law was passed by the state legislature in 1998 after
a poacher’s small fines for illegally killing a well-known trophy
elk in Estes Park stirred public outrage. It adds mandatory
surcharges for poaching trophy game animals in addition to the
normal fines. The added amounts range from $4,000 for a
trophy-sized antelope up to $25,000 for a bighorn sheep.

Poaching continues to be a serious problem in Colorado and some
people estimate that poachers may be taking nearly as many animals
as legal hunters. The exact number of poaching incidents is
impossible for authorities to pinpoint because poaching frequently
occurs in remote areas.

“We encourage the public to call us, or Operation Game Thief, if
they see or suspect poaching,” Swaro said. “Even though we may not
be able to act on someone’s suspicion right away, we will keep the
information and, as we did in this case, use it in the future when
more pieces of the puzzle come to our attention.”

Since 1981, Colorado’s Operation Game Thief has received
information on more than 2,400 poaching incidents, resulting in
more than 700 convictions. These convictions have netted over
$600,000 in fines and have resulted in the seizure of more than
1,300 illegally-taken animals. During this period, almost $130,000
in rewards has been paid to citizens who reported suspected illegal

The Division relies on tips and public information to help
enforce hunting regulations, and citizens are encouraged to report
illegal activity to Operation Game Thief. You can call toll-free
within Colorado at 1-877-COLO-OGT. Verizon cell phone users can
dial #OGT.

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