HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS-Thanks to the cooperation of several concerned hunters and ability to track down hunting licenses by computer, two California poachers recently paid $4282 in fines and served seven days in the Grand County jail. Ignacio Martinez, 59, of Pasadena, CA, and John Medina, 40, of Diamond Bar, CA, pled guilty to felony willful destruction of wildlife and waste of meat, a misdemeanor, for killing two mule deer and taking only the heads and antlers.
The investigation began in November 1999 when Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) officers Jerry Claassen, Mike Crosby, and Rob Firth were approached by several hunters from Colorado who had found the carcasses of the deer. They thought the hunters doing the killing were from California. Claassen and Firth located several California hunters who substantiated the claim. They then were able to find the carcasses and took tissue samples.
According to Claassen, the DOW officers then checked the local motel registrations as well as ordering a computer search of the deer licenses sold to California hunters for the November 1999 hunting season. After determining the names of two possible suspects, Claassen contacted the California Department of Game and Fish (CDGF). CDGF Officer Steve Ulrich was able to locate the suspects and conducted preliminary interviews.
He also located the antlers at a taxidermist and had them returned to Colorado. They were then sent to the forensics lab at the University of Wyoming for DNA testing. By comparing tissue samples from the carcasses to the antlers, the lab was able to determine they were from the same animals. When confronted with the lab results as well as the information from the other hunters, the suspects confessed their crimes.
The fines, which also included a contribution to the DOW’s anti-poaching program Operation Game Thief, and jail sentences were only for the waste of meat charges. Sentencing on the felony charges was deferred on the condition that the two men do not commit any other wildlife violations anywhere in the United States for two years.
“This was a very satisfying case that could not have been made without the help of the other hunters, the California Department of Game and Fish, and the University of Wyoming lab,” Claassen said. DOW officials urge anyone suspecting any illegal activities involving wildlife to call Operation Game Thief, 1-800-332-4155, with their information. Callers will remain anonymous.