Six New Yorkers and their friend from Massachusetts have learned that Colorado takes poaching seriously. The group spent a night in jail and paid a total of $42,000 for their illegal hunting activities in northwest Colorado. The men were nabbed by officers with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) after landowners in the Meeker area reported suspicious activity involving a black Hummer with out of state plates.

On Nov. 17, wildlife officers were called about a deer that had been shot illegally on private property. Evidence was collected at the scene and witnesses were interviewed. While no one had seen the poaching incident occur, all of the witnesses reported seeing a black Hummer H2 slowly cruising the area roads while the occupants watched nearby deer and elk herds. The information was enough to interest investigating officers and in a small town like Meeker, it didn’t take long to locate the vehicle at an area ranch bunkhouse.

On Nov. 19, wildlife officers contacted seven individuals at the bunkhouse. The men were identified as:

DAVID B. SOUZA Jr., 49, St. Johnsville, NY
THOMAS M. GRAY, 35, St. Johnsville, NY
RAYMOND E. SELAH Jr., 41, St. Johnsville, NY
DAVID W. WEBER, 34, Nelliston, NY
TIMOTHY P. ROCKLIN, 21, Fort Plain, NY

The men consented to a search of the bunkhouse and the surrounding property. During the search, wildlife officers found numerous animal carcasses and antlers. Several of the carcasses were legally tagged, but other carcasses were not tagged or were tagged with invalid licenses. Several of the carcasses, including one covered by a tarp and hay bales in a horse trailer, had been intentionally concealed on the property. Investigation eventually revealed at least five mule deer carcasses at the residence, while only two of the men held valid deer licenses.

All of the men were read their Miranda rights and several chose to exercise their right to remain silent. Some of the men gave conflicting or untruthful accounts of how the deer came to be in their possession.

Wildlife officers realized that, without cooperation from the group, further investigation and interviews would need to be conducted. Based on the evidence at the scene, the men were placed under arrest for illegal possession of wildlife (CRS 33-6-109) and transferred to the Rio Blanco County Jail. Officers also seized numerous hunting items, all wildlife at the scene, and three vehicles, including the 2003 black Hummer H2.

On Nov. 20, the men were arraigned in Rio Blanco County Court. Judge Laurie Anne Noble advised them of the charges against them. The men asked to speak with the local District Attorney regarding a possible plea agreement.

The local DA and the DOW agreed to allow each of the men to plead guilty to illegal possession of wildlife (CRS 33-6-109). Each man agreed to pay a $6,000 fine. They also face an administrative hearing that will determine the length of time that the men will be barred from hunting and fishing in Colorado and 23 other Wildlife Violator Compact member states.

Following guilty pleas being entered, the seized vehicles and personal items were returned to the men.