Colorado Parks and Wildlife has concluded a three-year-long poaching investigation involving a Kansas man who owns property in Teller County and his brother who resides in Pagosa Springs.
Kansan William Hessman, 55, and his brother Torry Hessman, 47, have pleaded guilty to several wildlife charges after wildlife officers found evidence that the two had set up bait sites for big game and other wildlife species.
The case originated back in August of 2011 when Teller County District Wildlife Manager Tonya Sharp first received information from a resident about a bait site located near the Gold Camp Subdivision and the Pike National Forest. Sharp searched the location, which was located on William’s property, and discovered hay, a mineral block and a large metal stock tank.
“If it wasn’t for this person’s tip we may never have discovered that this was going on,” said Sharp. “We have a lot of ground to cover so it’s always helpful to have another set of eyes out there.”
Nearly a year later Sharp received a report of another bait site located one mile east of William’s residence and in the Pike National Forest. This report also came from a concerned resident who was using the parcel for grazing cattle. The site contained hay, a mineral block and a large blue molasses lick tub.
“Again, a situation we would not likely have been aware of if it wasn’t for this person reaching out to us to let us know,” said Sharp.
Because of those two tips wildlife officers conducted surveillance over three years, through Sept. of 2013. The investigation involved 14 Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers as well as officers with Kansas Parks and Wildlife. It was determined that the two bait sites were related as well as a third bait site discovered by District Wildlife Manager Steve Cooley and Area Wildlife Manager Cory Chick.
Ultimately, a total of six bait sites were located both on private property and on federal lands. A search warrant of William’s property on Sept. 14, 2013 resulted in more evidence and the addition of several new charges.
William Hessman plead guilty to 15 charges including: illegal possession of three big game animals (elk, deer, bear), unlawful possession of wildlife (bobcat, turkeys), unlawful use of bait, unlawful hunting without the proper license and unlawfully operating a motor vehicle on federal lands.
William Hessman forfeited several items to CPW including his ATV, trail cameras, tree stands and compound bow. He paid the U.S. Forest Service $740 in restitution for damage caused by driving ATV’s off trail and paid $11,731.50 in other wildlife fines and court costs. His hunting privileges have also been suspended for life.
Torry Hessman, of Pagosa Springs, plead guilty to illegal possession of one cow elk and the unlawful use of a motor vehicle on USFS lands. He was fined $1,623.50 and given 25 points which could suspend his hunting privileges for up to five years.
Hunting any wildlife over bait is illegal in Colorado and any wildlife harvested over bait is considered to have been poached.
“Colorado’s wildlife is a precious resource and we take protecting it very seriously,” said Cooley. “If you cut corners and disobey the law you run the risk of never being able to hunt in Colorado or 43 other states again.”
Colorado is part of the Wildlife Violator Compact which is a reciprocal recognition of license privilege suspension by member states. There are 44 states in the compact meaning license privileges that are suspended in Colorado would also be suspended in those states. This prevents individuals from committing wildlife crimes in one state and continuing to hunt in another.
“The public often hears us asking for information in poaching cases and this just goes to show that their help really does make a difference,” said Sharp.
To report a poaching case or wildlife violation contact Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648, (877-COLO-OGT). Callers may remain anonymous and cash rewards may be offered for information that leads to a citation or arrest. Tips and information may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.