Poaching Ranchers in Colorado

shoots-straight

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Local ranchers face wildlife charges
By Collin Smith

April 2, 2008


At a glance
• DOW wildlife officers reported evidence of illegal big-game killing on the property of two Moffat County ranchers earlier this year.

• Evidence logs from warranted searches report DOW officials seized elk carcasses and firearms from the suspects’ property Feb. 22.

• The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Craig filed felony and misdemeanor charges against both ranchers Tuesday afternoon.
Craig — The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Craig filed misdemeanor and felony charges against two Moffat County ranchers Tuesday after a Colorado Division of Wildlife investigation.

Rodney Culverwell, part owner of Rio Ro Mo Cattle Company, located about 15 miles west of Craig, is charged with 18 counts of willful dest*ruction of big game — a class 5 felony — and 18 counts of illegal possession of wildlife — a misdemeanor.

Kenneth Wolgram, who owns property on Moffat County Road 17 west of Craig, is charged with 16 counts of willful destruction of big game and 16 counts of illegal possession of wildlife.

The District Attorney’s Office does not plan to ask for an arrest warrant in either case, Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow said.

According to search warrant affidavits filed with Moffat County District Court, DOW officials observed both suspects throughout a period of time.

DOW wildlife officers began investigating dead elk on Culverwell’s property Jan. 28 after receiving reports of carcasses visible from U.S. Highway 40. The investigation continued until DOW officials served a search warrant Feb. 22.

According to the affidavit, DOW officials located dead elk on Culverwell’s property on different days and found a store of carcasses in a hay barn there, as well.

Also reported in the affidavit, a DOW wildlife officer received an e-mail from Culverwell on June 12, 2007, asking for permission to kill wildlife eating his cattle feed and damaging his property.

“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,” the affidavit states Culverwell wrote in his e-mail.

Evidence reported in the subsequent evidence log lists 21 cow, calf and bull elks along with bullets reportedly taken from the carcasses and matching ammo casings found in a pickup truck registered to Rio Ro Mo Cattle Company, Culverwell’s business.

DOW officials began investigating Wolgram on Feb. 18, after reportedly finding four elk carcasses on the side of County Road 17, according to a search warrant affidavit also dated Feb. 22.

The carcasses were located approximately two miles north of Highway 40, near Wolgram’s property.

The affidavit states officials found evidence some of the animals were shot with a shotgun.

Upon entering Wolgram’s property the next day, the affidavit reports officials spotted a dead cow elk near a haystack.

Wildlife Officer Garett Wat*son approached Wolgram and asked if he had dumped the elk on Highway 40, to which Wolgram answered yes, the affidavit states. Wolgram denied shooting the elk and told Watson he did not own a shotgun.

According to the affidavit, officers later found evidence of spent 12-gauge shotgun shells and .22 caliber ammunition casings on Wolgram’s property.

According to evidence logs reported by DOW officials, the Feb. 22 warranted search on Wolgram’s property yielded 13 elk carcasses along with two whole coyotes, 63 packages of non-commercially processed meat, antlers, cutting utensils, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .22 caliber pistol, a .22 caliber rifle and ammunition.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or [email protected]
:BLEEP: My guess they'll get their hands slapped and told not to do it again.
 

JoseCuervo

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Why is everybody always coming down on the ranchers. If it weren't for the ranchers their land would be subdivided and we wouldn't have any game. These guys should be seen as the hardworking American Heroes they are, the men who builth this great nation with the sweat of their brow and the strength of their back. Obviously an overzelous DOW officer with an axe to grind.
 

shoots-straight

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Why is everybody always coming down on the ranchers. If it weren't for the ranchers their land would be subdivided and we wouldn't have any game. These guys should be seen as the hardworking American Heroes they are, the men who builth this great nation with the sweat of their brow and the strength of their back. Obviously an overzelous DOW officer with an axe to grind.

Is what I was P Oed about was the 2 coyote carcasses that they left to rot.:rolleyes:
 

Oak

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People on MM are defending these guys, saying the DOW should have done something about the elk. The people on that site never cease to amaze me.
 

JB

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Also reported in the affidavit, a DOW wildlife officer received an e-mail from Culverwell on June 12, 2007, asking for permission to kill wildlife eating his cattle feed and damaging his property.

LMAO.
did they respond to the email or let him break the law and then bust the guy?

you guys were right,....thats a tough job they got.


“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,” the affidavit states Culverwell wrote in his e-mail.

sharp guy he is :rolleyes:

no they obviously dont care about wildlife.....much more concerned about an easy bust.
 

Tom

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Don't they charge a tresspass fee to cover the cost of feeding the elk?
Or, will hunter's not pay it or what?
What a mess, they each had over 15 counts of felony.
That seems like more than a hand slap.
 

Oak

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Culverwell's trial started yesterday:

Opening arguments in Rodney Culverwell’s trial suggested the case will look at whether the state did enough to protect the rancher’s pro­perty from wildlife or if Culverwell unduly took the law into his own hands.

Culverwell, 41, a Moffat County rancher, is charged with 80 poaching crimes that stem from alleged incidents where elk damaged his crops and fencing this winter.

Specifically, he is charged with 16 counts of willful destruction of big game, a Class 5 felony; 16 counts of illegal possession of wildlife, a misdemeanor; 16 counts of hunting big game without a license, a misdemeanor; 16 counts of hunting out of season, a misdemeanor; and 16 counts of failure to dress wildlife, a misdemeanor.

Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said the evidence would show that Culverwell did not exhaust all avenues of help from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, which has different programs for wildlife damage.

“Instead of picking up his phone, Culverwell picked up his gun,” Snow said.
Pamela Mackey, Cul­verwell’s defense attorney, said that is not the truth.

“Well, there’s lots of e-mails and phone calls,” she said. “But, the only time the DOW showed up on Rodney Culverwell’s property during that time was not to help, but to act as cops.”

To defend his property, Mackey said Culverwell did shoot “some” elk, but not all 16 alleged by the District Attorney’s Office. A ballistics expert will show, she added, that five of 10 bullets recovered from elk carcasses identified in the case were not fired by any weapon Culverwell owns or that was confiscated from his property.

The first witness called by the prosecution — and the only witness to testify Tuesday — spoke on both the material investigation of elk on and near Culverwell’s roughly 20,000-acre ranch, and the DOW’s actions after receiving support requests from Culverwell and his wife, Margaret.

Colorado Wildlife Officer Garett Watson helped conduct the first physical examinations of elk carcasses in the case, which included retrieving bullets from some of the animals.

He testified Tuesday that he examined eight dead elk on Feb. 11 — five on Culverwell’s property and three on the other side of U.S. Highway 40 — after receiving a report that dead elk were visible from the highway.

All eight elk appeared to have gunshot wounds that would have been sufficient to kill the animals, Watson said.

It seemed the animals had been shot within 48 hours of his examinations, he added, because the wounds were not swollen with infection, some were bleeding and the animals still were relatively warm.

Watson said it was his opinion that all eight elk died from gunshot wounds. He did not testify whether the bullets removed from some of the carcasses matched Cul­verwell’s firearms.

Chief District Court Judge Michael O’Hara overruled Mackey’s objection that Watson could testify as an expert to the cause of the animals’ deaths.

Watson said he has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University, as well as law enforcement training, DOW training and has completed more than 100 examples of similar fieldwork.

Watson also testified that there are no other homes or hayfields within one to two miles of where the elk were found, and there was no evidence they were moved.

Mackey’s cross-examination focused more on the Culverwells’ interaction with DOW officers, including Watson, shortly before the agency’s investigation.

Margaret first e-mailed Watson asking for help with wildlife damage Feb. 2, Watson and Mackey agreed. Watson responded that the DOW could provide wood cattle panels to put on their fences and help keep out wildlife.

According to Watson’s testimony, he learned on Feb. 9 that the Culverwells purchased their own wood paneling, which Mackey said cost more than $1,000.

Between the two dates, Watson said he and the Culverwells communicated primarily by e-mail at the couple’s request. There were two instances when Watson said he didn’t receive their e-mail until two days after they sent it because he was working in the field and had not been in his office.

The Culverwells did not have a home phone at the time, and Watson said that made it more difficult to communicate. Many Northwest Colorado residents made requests to the DOW at that time, he said, which kept him out of the office.

“I’m a field guy,” Watson said. “I’ve got to decide whether I’m actively doing those tons of calls I’m getting or sitting at my computer waiting for (the Culverwells) to respond.”

Watson did not finish testifying by the 5 p.m. recess Tuesday.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. today.
 

Oak

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Wednesday:

Three more Colorado Division of Wildlife officials testified Wednesday in the case of a Moffat County rancher charged with poaching elk on his property this winter.

Resident Rodney Culverwell, 41, who owns part of Rio Ro Mo ranch between Craig and Lay, pleaded not guilty to 80 wildlife crimes earlier this month, including 16 Class 5 felonies and 64 misdemeanors.

His defense attorney, Pamela Mackey, of Denver, has said Culverwell had no other reasonable alternative than to kill the animals, which she said destroyed hay and other property belonging to Culverwell this winter.

Mackey also said in her opening argument Tuesday that Adrian Archuleta, DOW district wildlife manager, offered Culverwell’s wife noisemakers and other assistance he knew would not work to keep elk off the couple’s land.

“Of course, as he gives this advice, Adrian Archuleta knows these will not be successful,” Mackey said to the jury. “He’s been giving this advice to people all through January.”

Mackey’s cross-examination of three DOW officials, including testimony by Wildlife Officer Garett Watson continued from Tuesday, focused more on what help the officials provided for property damage this winter than on evidence collected on 16 dead elk found in February on or near Culverwell’s ranch.

After questions from Mac­key, Watson testified he did not approve special “kill permits” for the Culverwells because he is not authorized to do so. Kill permits allow a landowner to shoot an animal, but they must harvest the meat and give it to the DOW, which then donates the meat to needy residents.

Watson added he never offered kill permits because the Culverwells asked specifically for wood cattle panels to reinforce their fences. Rodney Culverwell knew about kill permits and had been granted them before, but he never asked for them, Watson said.

His testimony continued that he offered to bring wood panels to the Culverwells’ ranch and help put them up, but each time he was refused.

Then, in March, DOW officers began driving elk off the Culverwells’ property themselves and placed bait hay piles on government lands to draw the elk away, Watson said.

Watson spent about 60 hours a week this winter helping landowners with a range of issues, he said.

“The majority of my time spent was helping landowners this winter,” he said.

When Archuleta took the stand Wednesday afternoon, Mackey questioned why he would recommend that residents use noisemakers and try to herd elk with snow machines when his experience suggested neither worked.

She brought up five examples of Yampa Valley residents whom Archuleta described in DOW reports. In each case, Mackey said, the residents complained that herding elk away was only useful for a day or two, and then problems continued.

Archuleta said herding is an effective method, but it’s not something that is a one-time cure.

“In different areas, we had different measures of success,” Archuleta said. “Where we saw more success in keeping the elk off property is when landowners kept at it.”

Some landowners also used only one kind of noisemaker provided by the DOW, he added. In Archuleta’s experience, he said, it’s best to use all different kinds, which make different noises the elk don’t become used to hearing.

As per Mackey’s question, however, Archuleta said fencing panels are commonly the best approach to keeping elk from eating crops or damaging property.

The trial is set to resume at 8:30 a.m. today.
 

Oak

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Craig — Colorado Division of Wildlife officials continued their testimony in Day 3 of Moffat County rancher Rodney Culverwell’s trial.

Six DOW officials have testified about their physical examinations of dead elk on and near Culverwell’s pro*perty, the Rio Ro Mo Ranch, between Craig and Lay.

Culverwell is charged with 80 poaching crimes in the deaths of 16 elk this winter, including 16 Class 5 felonies and 64 misdemeanors, which resulted from a DOW investigation in February.

Pamela Mackey, Culverwell’s defense attorney from Denver, has said she intends to raise her client’s right to protect his private property as the reason for killing “some” elk. She alleged they ate her client’s hay and destroyed his fences this winter.

The defense has denied Cul*verwell’s involvement in the deaths of all 16 animals.

Culverwell pleaded not guilty to all charges earlier this month.

DOW officials testified for the prosecution that they found 16 dead elk in the following locations: seven inside Culverwell’s hay stackyard along U.S. Highway 40; three inside or near a hay stackyard on the north side of Culverwell’s ranch; three a short distance across Highway 40 on another person’s land; and three in a pasture on the west side of Culverwell’s ranch.

Testimony and evidence showed DOW investigators found bullets or bullet fragments inside 11 of the elk Culverwell is charged with shooting.

Bullets were not recovered from three animals in the case. However, investigators on the stand said their examinations showed clear bullet entry wounds and internal trauma consistent with gunshots.

Photo evidence collected by the DOW depicted the wounds.

Each examination was done outside, where or near where the animal was found dead.

When Mackey asked why the animals were not taken to another place where they could be more thoroughly examined, DOW officials said they thought their examinations were sufficient.

Mackey pointed out during questioning it is now impossible to examine the bullets and determine what firearm they came from since the animals were thrown out.

In the case of one elk, DOW Wildlife Officer Garett Watson testified he and Wildlife Officer Michael Bauman found a plastic bullet tip inside the animal, but lost the evidence in the snow.

The last elk Culverwell is charged with poaching was not shot, but run over by a tractor, a fact the defense does not challenge.

Mackey said Culverwell told two DOW officers about the incident and that it was impossible to avoid the animal when it charged his tractor.

Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said a ballistics expert will testify today about bullets recovered from elk in the case.

Culverwell’s trial is set to resume at 8:30 a.m. today.
 

MULE

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Thanks for the update Oak

Kind of curious as to how this is gonna turn out

What I do find stange is that in Moffat County the DOW goes above and beyond to give away ALOT of landowner tags to people who promptly turn around and sell them at a premium. But then tell the same guys they have no say when the elk migrate down and eat the feed for cattle.

I'm not taking a side mind you. Not really sure what to think about the whole deal
 

Oak

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A witness told Rodney Culverwell’s jury of seven women and seven men Friday that a single bullet among 10 could be traced to firearms confiscated from the defendant.

The jury also heard, in Culverwell’s own tape-recorded words, that noisemakers and snow machines are effective in wildlife control, contradicting questions from his defense attorney about the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s game management policies.

Culverwell is charged with 80 poaching crimes, 16 class 5 felonies and 64 misdemeanors, in the deaths of 16 elk this winter.

DOW testimony for the prosecution so far has included that 13 of the elk in question were located on Culverwell’s ranch, and three were found a short distance across U.S. Highway 40 on another person’s land.

Pamela Mackey, Culverwell’s defense attorney from Denver, has said she intends to raise her client’s right to protect private property as the reason for him to shoot “some” elk. She said the elk destroyed her client’s property — with little help from the DOW.

The defense also denies Culverwell had a hand in the deaths of all 16 animals.

Bullet science

An Oregon-based ballistics expert testified that one of 12 bullets and bullet fragments could be tied conclusively to two firearms confiscated from Culverwell.

DOW witnesses have testified that each elk in question except one died from gunshot wounds.

Ballistics expert Michael Scanlan, a senior forensics scientist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, could not conclusively tie all 10 bullets and two bullet fragments used as evidence in the case with two firearms confiscated from Culverwell on Feb. 22 by the DOW.

Scanlan said only one .17-caliber bullet and none of the bullet fragments could be conclusively said to have come from either of Culverwell’s weapons. The one match came from Culverwell’s .17-caliber Ruger rifle, which DOW officials confiscated Feb. 22.

Three bullets were determined to be .45-caliber lead slugs. Although a .45-caliber handgun also was confiscated from Culverwell, Scanlan said the bullets pulled from animals in the case were too deformed to match with the defendant’s handgun.

“These are lead bullets, so they’re soft,” Scanlan said, “and they hit tissue, bone or anything else, they deform.”

Although Scanlan could not tie the three slugs with Culverwell’s handgun, evidence documents provided by District Court show the DOW recorded those bullets as being retrieved from three elk found on Culverwell’s ranch.

Evidence documents also showed one set of bullet fragments too damaged to match with a firearm were found inside an elk on Culverwell’s property, as well as the .17-caliber bullet Scanlan did match to Culverwell’s rifle.

Scanlan also testified that five .17-caliber bullets found inside elk in the case did not come from the .17-caliber rifle confiscated from Culverwell.

There has been no other evidence presented thus far tying Culverwell to a second .17-caliber weapon, except for four shell casings found in a truck he owns.

Scanlan said the casings also were not from Culverwell’s Ruger rifle, but there is no way to match them with any fired bullet.

Evidence records did not include information that could be used to determine which animals the DOW found those five bullets in — if the animals were found on Culverwell’s ranch — or which animals held another .17-caliber bullet and another example of bullet fragments too damaged to test.

The Culverwells speak

DOW Criminal Investigator Eric Schaller first met Rodney and Margaret Culverwell when he knocked on their door about 2:50 p.m. Feb. 22, the same afternoon DOW officials served a search warrant on the Culverwell’s ranch.

It was Schaller’s job to serve the warrant and question the Culverwells.
Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow intended to play excerpts from Schaller’s interaction with the Culverwells — which Schaller taped with a recorder hidden in his pocket — but was told by Chief District Court Judge Michael O’Hara he could play the whole one-hour-and-15-minute recording or none of it after the defense objected.

When Schaller first introduced himself, he said he was with the DOW and wanted to speak with the Culverwells about “game damage issues.”

Rodney said whatever game management policies the DOW had to keep herd populations under control, they didn’t make sense to him. If the DOW would decrease the herds, there wouldn’t be game damage issues.

“Obviously, right now, there is an overpopulation,” Rodney said. “When I was a kid, you never (saw) an elk. Now, they’re all over. … I’ve never understood why there’s a draw on (hunting licenses). If you guys think there’s too many, maybe you need to write the Wildlife Commission, because when we write letters, it doesn’t do any good.”

When Schaller asked about the seven dead elk in the Culverwells’ hay stackyard on Highway 40, Rodney said any elk inside were in there because they couldn’t get out. Either they were too weak to move, they were tangled in the fence or they had become too erratic to try and herd out.

“It kind of comes to a personal protection factor at some point,” Rodney said. “It costs money, too. How long am I going to sit there and wait for it when (the DOW isn’t) going to nurse it back to health, either.”

During the conversation, Rodney referenced dead elk in the stackyard on Highway 40 and one elk he ran over with a tractor along the same road. That elk charged his tractor, Rodney said on the tape recording, and he had to hit it.

He did not tell Schaller about elk — which had gunshot wounds — near another of his stackyards or in a pasture on the west side of his ranch.
At one point, Schaller said it would be better for the Culverwells to be honest about any elk they killed and why. If they had real problems but didn’t speak out about them, people might assume Rodney “got ticked off one day and started shooting.”

“They’re ignorant,” Mar­garet said of people who would think that. “If that had happened, then there’d be 500 dead elk.”

Prosecution’s case ongoing

Schaller also recorded the Culverwells saying that using noisemakers and snow machines to herd elk away from their hay had worked to protect their crops. Previously, Rodney Culverwell’s defense attorney has questioned DOW witnesses on why they would recommend landowners try to scare elk away when they knew it was not effective.

Schaller did not tell the Culverwells about the search warrant until about halfway through the tape recording, when Rodney resisted providing his .17-caliber rifle.

Schaller could not testify to when other DOW officials began their search of the Culverwells’ stackyard, whether it was before he made notice of the warrant or after.

Another DOW officer present at the interaction between Schaller and the Culverwells may be called to testify Tuesday, and defense attorney Mackey indicated that officer may know more about when the DOW’s search began.

The trial continues at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, with the prosecution yet to close its case. The judge and the attorneys said they were “nervous” about whether the trial will conclude by its Sept. 5 court deadline.
 

MULE

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What kind of idiot shoots a animal the size of an elk with a godamn 17 cal??

Thats just fucked up.

Hey, if you are gonna kill the critter then use enough gun to make it quick.
 

Oak

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Missed a few updates, but here is the verdict. The sympathetic local jury let the guy skate.

Pamela Mackey saw a measure of victory in her client’s mixed verdict late Friday night.

Since Aug. 25, Mackey has represented local rancher Rodney Culverwell, 41, in Moffat County District Court against 80 poaching-related charges, including 16 class 5 felonies and 64 misdemeanors.

A seven-man, seven-woman jury of Moffat County residents convicted Culverwell on 16 charges Friday, after deliberating for nine hours about the two weeks worth of evidence presented at trial.

Culverwell was convicted of four counts each of the following charges: willfull destruction of big game, a class 5 felony; illegal possession of wildlife, a misdemeanor; hunting without a license, a misdemeanor; and hunting out of season, a misdemeanor.

He was acquitted of all 16 waste of edible game meat charges.

All convictions were related to the deaths of four specific elk found on Culverwell’s ranch this winter by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

None of the convictions, however, were related to any elk Culverwell testified he shot in defense of his property, Mackey said. Defense of property was a key argument used by Mackey, which often called into question the effectiveness of DOW programs designed to help ranchers and other landowners.

“I think that what was really affirming for Rodney and his family was that all the elk Rodney testified he killed in defense of himself and defense of property, he was acquitted on,” Mackey said. “The jury rejected the notion that a rancher that tries to protect his livelihood should be labeled a criminal.

“The reason Rodney went to trial was to defend those constitutional principles.”

The convictions

Of the four elk Culverwell was convicted of illegally taking, two were found inside his hay stackyards.

Culverwell denied shooting one of those but said he dragged the body to a fence line and piled it on top of two other elk he shot because the elk was in the way of his tractor.

The other one was a calf Culverwell said he shot accidentally while aiming for an elk that had torn out a fence corner. The prosecution stated during closing that Culverwell’s testimony of shooting the calf twice — once by accident and once to put it out of its misery — didn’t match physical evidence of three bullet wounds from two different guns.

Culverwell was convicted of killing two more elk that weren’t found inside hay pens. One was a calf Culverwell testified he shot because it appeared sick and wouldn’t leave the area around a cabin and tractor that his family often walked through. Culverwell said he shot the animal to stop its suffering and prevent it from attacking anybody.

“What I think happened (in that specific case) was the jury did not think the statute made room for a mercy killing,” Mackey said. She added, in her opinion, the laws Culverwell was charged with breaking were written to regulate hunters and prevent “thrill-killing,” and so the statutes did not apply to her client in this case.

The final elk Culverwell was convicted of killing illegally was one he ran over with a tractor. Culverwell testified he had no choice when the animal charged his farm vehicle in a seeming fit of fear and desperation.

In response to that testimony, Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District, played an excerpt of Culverwell’s conversation with DOW Criminal Investigator Eric Schaller on the day his agency searched the Culverwell’s ranch.

Culverwell aksed in the excerpt how long he was supposed to wait for the animal to get out of his way and that the elk had more to worry about from his tractor.

Mackey said if the District Attorney’s Office had played the whole exchange, the jury would have heard how Culverwell described the starving body condition of the animal and how he never wanted to hurt it.

Mackey said she didn’t know how the jury made the four convictions relating to that elk.

Culverwell was acquitted of all charges relating to 12 other elk in the case, nine of which were found on his ranch and three others across U.S. Highway 40.

Three of the elk without convictions found on Culverwell’s ranch were shown to be stuck in hay pen fences. No ballistics evidence linked Culverwell to any of the other elk found on his ranch or across the highway.

The DOW

Mackey said the DOW’s investigation of Culverwell and his wife, Margaret, disturbed her.

There was no physical evidence that linked Culverwell to eight of the 16 elk in the case, she said, but the DOW and the District Attorney’s Office still charged her client and testified as though he were guilty beyond doubt.

As an “outside,” Mackey said she was “shocked” by the level of hostility between ranchers and the DOW.

“It’s just awful,” she said. “The animosity between the ranchers and the DOW is amazing. I have tried a lot of high-profile cases, and I have never seen a courthouse that full for two weeks. [She was Kobe Bryant's defense attorney in his rape trial. I find this statement hard to believe]

“People’s lives and their ranching plans and their livelihoods are being threatened by the DOW’s policies in herd management.”

Mackey added that Culverwell’s case and the stories she heard while investigating it show an “abuse of government power, and I’m outraged by it.”

She singled out testimony from Schaller, the DOW investigator who interviewed her client the day his ranch was searched. She was bothered Schaller introduced himself as a DOW officer who wanted to reach out to ranchers, but he didn’t mentioned the hidden tape recorder and search warrant in his pocket.

“I found Schaller’s conduct and testimony really, really disturbing,” Mackey said.

The next step

The Culverwells have not decided whether to appeal the convictions, Mackey said. Right now, they have to answer some tough questions for themselves.

If Rodney is convicted of a felony, he could no longer possess or own a firearm, which will threaten his ability to be a rancher.

“The ramifications of this conviction are enormous, and it makes me very sad,” Mackey said.

Each conviction of willful destruction of big game carries a possible sentence of one to three years in prison, a fine between $1,000 and $100,000 and a mandatory two-year parole. A conviction also guarantees 20 hunting license suspension points, and the Colorado Wildlife Commission may suspend hunting privileges for one year to life for each count.

Because Culverwell was convicted of three or more counts of illegal possession of wildlife, each of his four convictions could result in a possible sentence of up to one year in county jail, a fine between $1,000 and $10,000 and 15 hunting license suspension points. The Wildlife Commission also may suspend hunting privileges for one year to life.

Each count of hunting without a license and hunting out of season carry penalties of 15 hunting license suspension points and a fine equal to two times the amount of the most expensive hunting license for the species taken.
 

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