Thanks to a tip to Colorado Parks and Wildlife from a concerned hunter, a Fruita man is guilty of numerous charges of illegal big game hunting on the Uncompahgre Plateau.
Melvin Weaver, 59, whose last known address was in Fruita, pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal hunting, take and possession of big game; two counts of illegal big game hunting without a license; and one count of illegally taking a trophy elk, also known as the Samson Law. He was originally charged with 13 violations. The plea was accepted by the Mesa County court on March 15.
Weaver was ordered by the court to pay $14,832.50 in fines and to forfeit evidence seized by wildlife officers he used while committing the violations. These items included a Weatherby rifle, Polaris Ranger UTV and other hunting equipment. Weaver was also assessed 60 penalty points against his hunting and fishing privileges. Accumulation of 20 points or more can lead to a suspension of an individual's hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado and 44 other states.
Weaver, who did not have a hunting license, was living in a camper on the Uncompahgre Plateau west of Delta last October when he killed at least two bull elk. During the course of the investigation it was found that Weaver then called some friends to go up on the Uncompahgre Plateau and put their hunting licenses on the bull elk to claim them as their own. In Colorado, hunters can only tag animals that they have legally harvested themselves.
After receiving the tip about the case on Oct. 29, CPW wildlife officers tracked down Weaver and four others involved. Weaver was arrested on Nov. 3. The four other suspects involved have been cooperative in the investigation and charges are pending.
Garett Watson, the district wildlife manager who led the investigation, explained that the consequences for poaching wildlife can be severe.
"During the course of a poaching investigation, wildlife officers can confiscate any personal property used in the unlawful hunting or taking of wildlife," Watson said. "Not only rifles, but personal property such as vehicles, four wheelers and other hunting equipment can be confiscated and later ordered by the court to be forfeited by a defendant."
Watson also said that the tip about the incident was very helpful. Without the tip CPW might never have found out about the illegal activity.
Anyone with information about wildlife crimes can call a local CPW office or Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Tips can be made anonymously.