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CPW News Release
CPW reveals details of two-year poaching investigation on Roan Plateau, four men fined for wildlife violations

CPW reveals details of two-year poaching investigation on Roan Plateau, four men fined for wildlife violations
Bingham with 6x6 bull elk illegally killed on private land on the Roan Plateau
Mike Porras
CPW reveals details of two-year poaching investigation on Roan Plateau, four men fined for wildlife violations

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Colorado Parks and Wildlife is releasing details of a two-year investigation concluding last month after the last of four individuals involved in the illegal take of a high-quality bull elk received his sentence in Garfield County Court. The bull was taken on private land not open to hunting in October 2014.

After reaching a plea agreement with the Garfield County District Attorney's office in exchange for lesser penalties, 44-year old Thad Bingham of Fruita, the individual that killed the elk, pleaded guilty to trespassing and illegal possession of wildlife. He paid over $200 in court fines and ordered to donate $5,000 to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Prior to his plea agreement with the DA, he faced over $12,000 in fines for several charges.

Bingham, along with 45-year-old Brian Scheer, 48-year-old Barrett Rowles and 45-year-old Josh Fitzsimmons, all from the Western Slope, participated in the illegal hunt after trespassing onto private land on the Roan Plateau, northwest of Rifle. Scheer was accused of trespassing by complicity. In addition to trespassing, the four were initially charged with illegal transportation of wildlife, failing to contact the landowner prior to entering private property to pursue wounded game, and the illegal possession of a trophy-class 6x6 bull elk. In Colorado, illegally killing an elk with at least 6 points on one antler can yield up to an additional $10,000 in fines over the standard criminal penalties, known as the 'Samson Law' in Colorado.

Bingham and Scheer are employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working at the Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility Ponds near Fruita.

"Poachers come from all walks of life but everyone is subject to the same rules and regulations. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will prosecute anyone to the full extent in cases like this one," said Area Wildlife Manager JT Romatzke of Grand Junction. "Rather than setting a good example as employees of a federal wildlife management agency, these two individuals and their accomplices instead chose to violate the law in an egregious manner, and that is a real shame."

All four men face up to a 5-year suspension of their hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado and 43 other Wildlife Violator Compact states, pending a review by a CPW Hearings Officer.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife learned of the violations after Bingham posted a photo of himself with the elk online. Wildlife officers learned of the photo a few weeks later and upon further examination, they recognized landmarks in the background of the snapshot confirming that the bull was killed in an area well into private property and closed to all hunting.

CPW officers traveled to the site where they recovered evidence of the crime, then executed a search warrant at Bingham's home in Fruita and searched a federal fish hatchery in Grand Junction. During their search, they recovered additional evidence linking Bingham and his three accomplices to the illegal take of the bull, including the bull's antlers, seized by CPW.

"This was good work by all officers involved," said Romatzke. "We say this over and over, and we cannot stress this enough, if you commit a wildlife crime, no matter who you are, we are going to do what we can to find you. Colorado Game wardens know every rock, tree and canyon in the state and are constantly on the lookout for people that ignore our wildlife laws. We will use our expertise and extensive knowledge of Colorado's backcountry to bring poachers to justice."

Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds the public that poachers steal wildlife and opportunity from the public and legal hunters.

To report a wildlife violation and remain anonymous, call Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards are available for information that leads to a conviction.

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CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.

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