Northern Colo rancher convicted of poaching elk
CRAIG, Colorado ” A jury has convicted a Moffat County rancher of poaching charges in the killing of elk found last spring in a hay field and along a highway and county roads.
The district court jury Friday convicted Rodney Culverwell of 16 of the 80 poaching charges stemming from a Colorado Division of Wildlife investigation last spring. The charges included felony willful destruction of big game and misdemeanor charges of hunting without a license and hunting out of season.
Culverwell’s sentencing hearing is scheduled Nov. 4 and the possible penalties include jail time, fines or parole.
Rancher Kenneth Wolgram pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the case in August. He will be sentenced Sept. 25.
Culverwell, convicted of killing only four of several elk, said he shot the animals because they were caught in his fence. He testified that he couldn’t pull his fence up while the elk were tangled in them and he couldn’t cut them loose because the animals would be dangerous.
Prosecutor Jeremy Snow said Culverwell had other options, including calling the Division of Wildlife or standing on the side of the fences, away from the elk, to cut them loose.
Culverwell’s attorney, Pamela Mackey, said the evidence didn’t prove that her client killed all 16 elk he was accused of shooting. She said testimony from other ranchers showed they don’t think the Division of Wildlife will help them. Mackey said her client shares that belief and acted to protect his property, himself and his family and put the animals out of their misery.
The Division of Wildlife in February began investigating the deaths of elk found in a field and along a road, where state wildlife officers said the animals had been dumped, according to affidavits. Several more carcasses, including elk calves, were found over the next several weeks.
A state wildlife officer said Culverwell had e-mailed him to complain about wildlife eating his cattle feed and asking for the right to kill wildlife