Two Florida men have pleaded guilty in a poaching operation that killed at least three mule deer and six pronghorn in Elbert and Lincoln counties.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers allege the poachers, who were in Colorado working jobs in the energy industry, killed deer and pronghorn – decapitating some and leaving their torsos – and shipped their heads to a taxidermist in Florida for mounting.
The Colorado Springs and Limon police departments and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, made the two arrests.
Timothy Draper, 31, of Bunnell, Florida, was arrested in March after he arrived at the Colorado Springs Airport. A search of Draper’s truck from the airport parking lot provided DNA evidence in the case.
CPW officers also arrested Lawrence J. Cowart, 29, of Bunnell, Florida, after a search of his Limon apartment and his vehicle produced evidence of poaching.
The men were accused of illegally killing deer and pronghorn in the Limon area for 10 months dating to May 2017. CPW officers accused Draper and Cowart of multiple counts of willful destruction of wildlife, Class 5 felonies, as well as several misdemeanor charges of illegal taking of wildlife, hunting from a motor vehicle, waste of game meat and illegal transfer of a hunting license.
Draper pleaded guilty in October to possessing three or more big game animals. He forfeited all weapons and equipment used in his crime.
Cowart pleaded guilty to a Class 5 felony of willful destruction of wildlife and forfeited his firearms and equipment used in his crime.
Both men surrendered the trophy heads of the deer and pronghorn and still face one-year to lifetime suspension of their hunting privileges.
“These men are not hunters by any definition,” said Frank McGee, area wildlife manager for the Pikes Peak region. “In the eyes of CPW, and the law, they are criminals who were engaged in illegal killing of wildlife.”
McGee said the investigation is ongoing and more arrests and misdemeanor citations could follow as district wildlife managers Benjamin Meier and Logan Wilkins pursue additional leads in the case.
McGee praised the person who provided the tip.
“We have a limited staff,” McGee said. “It’s critical we get help from the public to stop crimes against wildlife.”
Anyone who has information about a possible crime against wildlife may report it anonymously to Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Verizon cell phone users can dial #OGT or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A $500 reward is offered for information on cases involving big game or endangered species, while $250 is offered for information on turkey and $100 for fishing and small game cases.