Moffat County ranchers face charges in shooting of 34 elk
CRAIG, Coloroado (AP) ” Two Moffat County ranchers face charges in the killing of 34 elk after searches by ground and air turned up carcasses in hay fields and along county roads and a highway.
Charges were filed Monday against Rodney Culverwell, 41, and Kenneth Wolgram, 43, after a six-week investigation by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Both men face felony charges of willful destruction of wildlife and misdemeanor charges of illegal possession of wildlife.
Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton declined to comment on the case and referred further questions to the Moffat County district attorney’s office.
Calls made by The Associated Press to phone numbers listed for Culverwell and Wolgram in the Craig area weren’t immediately returned Wednesday.
The investigation began in February after dead elk were found in a field and along a road, where state wildlife officers said the animals had been dumped, according to affidavits to search the men’s property. Several more carcasses, including elk calves, were found over the next several weeks.
A state wildlife officer said Culverwell e-mailed him in June to complain about wildlife eating his cattle feed and asking for the right to kill wildlife damaging his property.
The affidavit said the e-mail read: “If I have not heard from you within two weeks, I will assume that you do not care and these matters must be taken care of by other means.”
Wildlife officers investigating the elk deaths in February said they noticed that elk were eating from hay stacks on Wolgram’s property and fired guns to chase them away. When they asked him about carcasses that were dumped along a road, Wolgram told them that he dragged four dead elk away from his house, according to the affidavit. He said the elk died because of the weather, according to the affidavit.
Wolgram told wildlife officers that he cut the antlers off a bull elk, the affidavit said.
Hampton told The Denver Post that the Division of Wildlife has several programs to help ranchers who have problems with elk, including putting out hay to lure the animals away from hay for livestock.
“We understand the challenges that the landowners face,” Hampton said. “Those programs weren’t utilized” in these cases.
The felony charges carry penalties of one to two years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000 per count. Culverwell has been charged with 18 counts on the felony charges and Wolgram has been charged with 16 counts.
In central Colorado, Park County authorities are investigating the slaying of 32 bison from a private ranch that were found on a neighboring ranch and federal land.
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