Colorado actually has two separate and distinct game animal waste statutes. These statutes separate two different methods of illegal behavior with respect to game animals. One statute specifically deals with those who take wildlife with the intent to just abandon the carcass while the other deals with those who fail to take reasonable steps to care for the meat.
Willful Destruction of Wildlife: Colorado's Felony Wanton Waste Statute
The more serious of the two offenses is the “Willful Destruction of Wildlife,” C.R.S. 33-6-117. Willful destruction of wildlife is where the officers are charging you with taking only the trophy portions of an animal with no intention of using the meat or carcass whatsoever. Essentially, this statute would apply if you shot a deer and just removed the antlers, shot a bear and just took the claws or hide, or a mountain lion and only took the teeth. For big game, this is actually a felony and can mean a great deal of trouble for you if convicted. For small game, this is a misdemeanor with the possibility of a $1,000 fine. Both big and small game violations for this statute come with 20 license suspension points.
Wanton Waste: Failing to Retrieve Your Downed Game
The other statute dealing with the waste of game is the “Waste of Edible Wildlife,” statute, C.R.S. 33-6-119(2). A violation of this law occurs where someone fails to reasonably attempt to take care of edible portions of a game animal. Here, this is more along the lines of the situation where someone would be accused of carelessly getting an animal out of the field in such a way that the meat would spoil or taking only the backstraps and hind quarters off an elk or deer. This is, in the eyes of the law, a step down from just shooting an animal and taking only the trophy, the Colorado Department of Wildlife and Parks nonetheless is reinforcing the idea that you must properly care for the entire animal if you undertake responsibility for it.
Violations of the Waste of Edible Wildlife statute are a misdemeanor. For big game, this misdemeanor is accompanied by 15 license suspension points. Small game violations of the statute come with 10 license suspension points.
If you have been issued a ticket for waste of edible wildlife or the willful destruction of wildlife, it is important that you consider your options and speak with an attorney. Paying the fines is a plea of guilty and may come back later to haunt you even if it feels like a hopeless situation now. Nate Gilbert, Hunting Violation Defense Attorney in Denver, has handled these kinds of violations before and can speak with you about your options and what you can do to preserve your rights.