Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts

April 13, 2019

Bird Festival, Cattle-Rustling, and Elk in Beetle-Kill Forests


Plan now for the Mountain Plover Festival.
  • You’ll get the chance to mingle with farmers and ranchers who choose to live in the local community and learn about their lifestyle.
  • Eat home-style food at every meal. Most meal are prepared by the community non-profit organizations.
  • Saturday evening includes a chuck wagon dinner with authentic Western entertainment.
  • Learn about conservation practices and history of the area.
  • Tour Private Land that would normally not be accessible.
  • Make new friends! Here's the website.
Sounds perfect if you are allergic to cities.  

• Cattle-rustling still happens in 21st-century Colorado.
But even keeping a close eye on livestock sales doesn’t prevent Colorado ranchers from experiencing their share of losses. Annual reports of missing or stolen livestock — the vast majority being cattle — average a little over 100, with losses ranging from a little over 400 to more than 650 head over the past four years. But that’s where the numbers get a little fuzzy.
• Pine beetles and the fungus they carry have killed huge amounts of lodgepole pine forest in the northern Rockies. As the dead trees drop their needles and become just standing trunks, more grass comes up between them. So that would be good for elk, right?

The evidence, however, is mixed. Some species do benefit, but not much the elk.
Looking at elk daytime use during the summer in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in south-central Wyoming, [University of Wyoming researcher Bryan G.] Lamont’s team expected to find mixed results. The loss of canopy would likely mean a loss in thermal cover, and more downed trees would make it difficult for the elk to move, forcing them to expend more energy. On the other hand, with new understory growth, elk would have more vegetation to forage. They expected elk might avoid the densest areas of downed trees but take advantage of the forage in other places.

Instead, elk tended to avoid beetle-killed areas overall, resulting in much less forest habitat that the elk use to keep cool during summer days. Beetle kill, researchers found, was different for the elk in important ways from wildfires or other disturbances.
 Time on the elk's side, however, as the dead trees start to fall and decay. Read the whole article here.

December 30, 2016

Where to Eat in San Luis, First Aid, and Other Links

Where to eat in San Luis now that Emma's Hacienda is closed. And there is a new-ish coffee shop and bakery, Rosa Mystica, that I keep meaning to try.

¶ From the National Outdoor Leadership School: "27 Considerations for a Wilderness First Aid Kit." Having taken their wilderness first aid class a couple of times, I think about these things more than I used to, back when my first-aid kit was a few bandaids and a small tin of aspirin.

¶ Why your dog likes bread, oatmeal, and other grain-based foods and can digest them just fine. They learned to do it to live with Neolithic farmers, apparently. They are not wolves.

¶ Instead of just shooting a suspect bear and looking at its stomach contents to see if it ate the missing camper, the National Park Service is learning to use non-lethal DNA evidence.

October 26, 2015

A Mountain Cabin Mystery, Part 2


M. and I were gone on vacation from September 1–30. Then we came down with terrific colds (thanks, Swiss Air), and the weather was a little showery. She took the dog up back for a walk and came back saying something about a "board" on the Quonset cabin.

I had a look on my next walk up there and yes, a 4 x 8-foot piece of particle board was nailed across the empty hole where the living room window had been removed. Well, that was odd. Did Tim, the new owner of the adjacent property to the south, come up from his house and think he was doing me a favor?

I could have investigated more, but as I said, the head cold was killing my brain power, and I had a lot else to do. That may seem too laid-back, sorry.

But then came something I could not ignore. After my contractor friend said he thought that the dirt road to the cabin was too rough and rocky for his trailer, I decided to improve it. I contacted a neighbor who does "dirt work" locally.

He showed up with his tractor, blade, and rock-ripping teeth, and I went to open the gate for him.  What's this? The gate normally was secured by a chain with two padlocks on it. One was for the rural electric co-op, and the other was mine. Now someone had cut the chain and inserted a third lock!

Hike across the land and poke around a little, that's no big deal. Start cutting your way in, and that is something else.

After he finished his road work, I started making phone calls. How about the former owner of Tim's property? He owns hundreds of acres here and there, has a crew employed fulltime on various projects, and has been known, shall we say, to extend his fences beyond where he should. We had already had one go-round with him about that habit.

I called him, and we had an amiable chat. He was in his "the squire" persona. Oh no, he said, it was not his crew. (When they follow his orders and get him in trouble, he blames their poor language skills. Algunos no hablan inglés.)

I called the real estate agent who has listed property to the north of ours. Did he sell it, and did the new owner think that my road gave them access? Oh no, he said, the property had not been sold, and he knew that any buyer had no right to that road.

I called my contractor friend. Had he changed his mind about the salvage project and come back up there? Oh no, he had not.  (Too bad.) Maybe someone is "homesteading," he suggested.

To make things worse, the local paper ran a "25 Years Ago" item about law-enforcement officials launching an "intense vigil" right hereabouts for a fugitive described as "homicidal." Tracking dogs had followed him into these hills.

That was two years before we arrived. I had heard too about some fugitive hiding in the camping trailer that was there before the Quonset, but I cannot say if it was the same individual or a different one

M. and I paid an armed visit to the cabin. The rear door was locked — and as I wrote in Part 1, I never locked it.

I finally walked over to Tim, the new neighor's, house. No, neither he nor his kids had been inside the cabin. But "three weeks ago" he had heard a truck going up the road, followed by "banging." Maybe that was the nailing of the board.

I went home and called the sheriff's dispatcher. After about three hours, a deputy called me back. I gave him the facts. He clearly did not want to drive to this corner of the county — it was after dark, and he was the only patrol deputy on duty. That was OK, I told him, I just wanted to get something on the record in case I found a meth lab or a dead body or something else nefarious inside.

The next morning, I located the keys, and we went back. I sidled up to the door and unlocked it. Nothing was changed, except for the number of mouse turds. A ladder that I had there seemed to be in a different place.

So these are the facts:

1. Someone had cut the gate and installed their own lock, as if they planned to come back. (I, of course, took bolt cutters and removed that lock.)

2. Someone, maybe the same someone, had boarded up the empty window. You would do that only if you wanted to protect the property or make it more usable later.

3. Someone had locked the door, which makes no sense if you do not have a key to let yourself back in.

4. There were no signs of occupancy. No lights, no food, etc. The dog did not react when he was near the cabin.

Right now, it seems to us that Dick Y., the former owner, fits the frame for these reasons.

1. Because he helped to build the cabin and his family owned the land for 30-plus years, he probably feels a sense of ownership, and it may bother him to see it neglected. (Too bad, Dick, I would have the fire department burn it were it not for the wildfire hazard.)

2. He doesn't like us, why, I never fully understood. Neither does his sister.

3. He knows his way around up there, and he lives only an hour away. He could have retained a key to the house.

So Dick is the prime suspect, but I have absolutely no evidence. The sheriff is not going to get excited over a cut gate unless something else goes with it: burglary, cattle-rustling, poaching, etc. All we can do is be more vigilant.

As we were finishing supper, the telephone rang with a Reverse 911 call to all residents. "There is an armed and dangerous subject in your area. Last seen on foot near highway XXX and County Road XXX. Subject is wearing a blue polo shirt, khaki shorts and a khaki hat. Caucasian male, brown hair, tattoo of  'Ezekiel' on his neck. Please do not approach. Do not pick up any hitchhikers. If seen call 719-XXX-XXXX."

That at least ten miles away. Rural life goes on.

A Mountain Cabin Mystery, Part 1

Not what you think of when you hear "mountain cabin"?
In 2011, M. and I dug deep and bought the twenty acres up behind our house when they came on the market. We gained lots of rocks, the little dirt road where we walked the dogs anyway, many pine and juniper trees — including enough beetle-killed pine to keep us in firewood for a while — and "the Quonset."

It's not a true Quonset hut, but that name comes near enough. It is a pre-fab metal structure like you would see sheltering farm implements (tractors, etc.) out on the High Plains, but finished inside with a drop ceiling, walls, and carpeting.

When we came here, the owners, a family from southeastern Colorado, had a old travel trailer parked up there, with a wood-frame extension and a porch built on to it. But in about 1994, the younger generation apparently decided to build Mom and Dad a proper mountain get-away, so they visited their favorite ag-machinery-prefab-building dealer and ordered a 20 x 40-foot model. They brought up a small electric cement mixer and poured their own foundation, erected the galvanized metal roof — all of it.

And then their frequency of visits dropped way off. The cabin just sat there, looking like a big blister on the mountainside. The Y____ family, the owners, were not terribly friendly. Once, when I approached them about chipping in on the maintenance of our shared driveway, part of which led to their road, I got a small contribution, wrapped in a diatribe of a letter about how people were cutting trees on their property (not me), how people were saying nasty things about the metal cabin, etc. etc.

Fast-forward to 2011. We made an offer, two-thirds of what they asked. The agent conveyed it, but then he said they had turned it down. "Oh well," we thought. And two weeks later, he came back and said that Mom had told the kids (now in late middle age) that they should take it, and they did. (Dad was no longer alive.) After a very chilly closing — the kids, Dick and Judy, would not even speak to us — we owned it, down to the expired and bulging canned goods in the kitchen cabinets.

My friend Ray helped with the initial clean-out. Furniture was hauled away, scrap aluminum — the skin of the old trailer —sold to the recycler. The refrigerator went to the volunteer fire department, where it cools our bottled water and Gatorade. Lots of things went to the department's annual yard sale.

The cabin was not up to code: no well or cistern, and no indoor plumbing either, although it did have electric service. Located at the top of a steep dry-weather-only road, it had zero potential as a rental, and we already have a guest house.

One neighbor was interested in taking the metal shell to build a garage, but his eight-day-a-week job as a ranch manager got in the way. Some friends scavenged bits: a door here, a window there, a kitchen counter unit.

Then progress stalled. I pulled some of the carpet, but I kept having too much else to do. A contractor from Pueblo thought he might tear the building down for scrap — the metal roof and studs — but he was not sure he could get his big cargo trailer up the road.

I never locked the place. There was nothing to steal, and if an occasional person hiking around looked inside, I did not care. The terrain and the locked gate kept motorized visitors out — I thought.


May 24, 2014

A Blanket of Stupidity Has Descended on Our County, Part 3

Part 1: When is a "rattlesnake" not a rattlesnake?
Part 2: An Unnecessary Death

It was only ten o'clock when we left home after the bear shooting to do some shopping in Pueblo. But we had barely left the mountains for the prairie when my cell phone rang: "This is a CodeRED alert . . ."  It was a fire call.

I turned in by the corral at the bottom of Jackson Hill and went tearing back westward. Never mind that all my wildland gear was at home — I could grab a hard hat, gloves, and radio at the station and be well enough ready for what was, I felt in my bones, a bogus alarm.

For the fourth time this month, we had this situation:

1. Someone who is (a) relatively new to the area or (b) mentally and culturally disconnected welcomed the warmer, sunnier weather by building a fire outdoors to burn pruned branches, etc., without bothering to check with the sheriff's dispatcher first. (The sheriff, as fire marshal, has to give the OK for controlled burns.)

2. Someone else, made nervous by all the wildfires of the last few years, calls in the alarm.

After cruising the area of the smoke report with two other firefighters in one of the brush trucks, we stopped at another member's place and discovered him in conversation with his neighbor — the one who had the fire. He had already been made aware of his mistake, so after a little conversation, we put the truck back in the house, and M. and I headed for Pueblo an hour late.

But there was more to come!

Coming home, we hit a roadblock, improvised with the tanker truck utilized by the county coroner's septic tank-pumping business. For some reason, that struck me as hilarious. Who would want to run into that?
A 64-year-old local man was taken into custody for evaluation after an armed standoff with law enforcement officers this afternoon.
A 64-year-old local man was taken into custody for evaluation after an armed standoff with law enforcement officers this afternoon. - See more at: http://www.chieftain.com/news/region/2581206-120/county-armed-chieftain-coleman#sthash.CJNxg6eQ.dpuf
He ended up being taken to a hospital — with no shots fired. Amazing. The location was a house by the highway, hence the roadblock.

We had turned around and gone home another way — another fifty miles — and as we approached this area we passed a parade of law enforcement vehicles leaving the scene, even an armored car — it's truly a miracle that they didn't just shoot the house to pieces . . . and start another fire.

After supper, we watched an episode of Justified just to unwind. Watching Timothy Olyphant as Marshal Raylan Givens just seemed like light entertainment.

I just don't get the psychology of the "I'm in my house and will shoot anyone who comes near." On my last newspaper job, I covered such an incident — a man and his dog barricaded in a little frame house in town, me braced against a cop car, wishing that my telephoto lens was bigger than it was, since I was a block away.

Eventually smoke billowed from under the eaves—he had set the place on fire—and the police rushed in. I think the dog got out OK as well.

It is not the same as "suicide by cop" exactly. Like the man yesterday— he gave up, and now he is in Parkview Medical Center mental health unit for the time being.

And a male, age 64 — that seems so typical. I had a certain old Beatles song in my head the rest of the evening.

March 16, 2014

Three Plead Guilty to Poaching

 (News release)

Three Colorado men have been temporarily banned from hunting and fishing after pleading guilty to several charges in a poaching incident in October 2012. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission recently handed down the suspensions after a lengthy investigation.

"Colorado Parks and Wildlife takes poaching extremely seriously," said Sabrina Hurwitz, district wildlife manager.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers began investigating Christopher Abeyta, Robert Abeyta, and Jay Zunk after a landowner reported that the men were shooting at a coyote on his property without permission.

"We rely on the public to provide us with information on poaching incidents of which we are not aware. If you see anything that might be considered poaching or is suspicious please contact the nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office immediately," said Hurwitz. 

According to the landowner, on October 6, 2012, he saw three men shooting at a coyote in his direction. The men were inside a vehicle that was later found to belong to Robert Abeyta. The coyote ran to an adjacent property where the men shot at it again and killed it.

A thorough investigation, involving multiple CPW officers, eventually led to the three men and evidence of other poaching incidents involving big game animals including pronghorn. The three men faced multiple charges including taking wildlife without a proper and valid license, illegal possession of wildlife and use of a motor vehicle while hunting. Each individual reached a plea agreement.

Christopher Abeyta pleaded guilty to taking two pronghorn without a proper and valid license, among other charges, and was fined $2,301. He has also been suspended from any hunting or fishing until December 1, 2017.

Robert Abeyta pleaded guilty to illegal possession of wildlife and failure to comply with the provisions of a license. He received a $1,029 fine and has been suspended from hunting or fishing until December 1, 2015.

Zunk pleaded guilty to entering private land to hunt without permission, hunting from a motor vehicle and hunting coyotes without a proper license. He was fined $561 and can not hunt or fish until December 1, 2014.

The suspensions for these three individuals carry over to other states that are members of the Interstate Violator Compact Agreement. There are currently 38 member states in the compact. Colorado, Nevada and Oregon were charter members of the compact when it was initiated in 1991.

To report poaching or suspicious activity contact your local District Wildlife Manager or Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Verizon cell phone users can dial #OGT. Email tips can be sent to game.thief@state.co.us. Callers to Operation Game Thief may remain anonymous if they wish.

January 08, 2013

Accused Boulder Cop was Taxidermist on the Side

Brent Curnow, one of two Boulder cops accused of poaching a bull elk in a residential neighborhood, had a taxidermy business on the side.

So we get two cops shooting the elk for a vague reason when there was no direct threat to public safety, instead of calling a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer (who are also sworn law-enforcement people too) as they should have.
Neighbors told the Camera that a police officer informed them that night that he may have to put down the elk because it was behaving aggressively and not to be alarmed if they heard a gunshot.
 The next day, however, police officials and dispatchers had no record of an elk being put down, nor had Colorado Parks and Wildlife been notified of the elk's death. Police officers are required to make a report whenever they discharge their weapons, and Parks and Wildlife is supposed to be notified when a large animal is killed.
Then they take pictures and start loading the elk into a personal vehicle. Now the district attorney is studying the case:

[Boulder DA Stan] Garnett said Deputy District Attorney Jenny McClintock -- who is his office's animal cruelty specialist -- has been assigned the case and has been assisting Parks and Wildlife with the investigation into whether charges should be pressed against the Boulder police officers involved in the killing and removal of the elk.
Any taxidermist knows that the mounted head of a big bull elk can be sold for well into four figures (and maybe I am underestimating). Someone will want it to hang in on the wall of their vacation home in Vail or whatever. Curnow's buffalopeakstaxidermy.com site has suddenly vanished from the Web.

It's a general rule when investigating such crimes: Cherchez le taxidermiste.


January 06, 2013

A Candlelight Vigil for an Elk

Boulder being Boulder, they will hold a candlelight vigil for a bull elk, shot by cops on Sunday, who liked to hang out in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood.

A friend of mine who lives there wrote on her Facebook page,
Shocking and sad news. The elk, whose photo I posted last winter when he was lounging in our garden was killed last week. Killed by an on duty police officer at night, who then had a trophy photo taken and called in a buddy off duty officer to bring his truck and take the carcass home for meat. The elk was just standing in a neighbor's garden, as usual, minding his own business. A memorial is scheduled for this evening.
The "official story" stinks: "the officer told investigators the elk appeared injured, with a limp," said the Denver Post.

So he shot him, and then he and another officer were going to take the meat home. I think the technical term for that is "destruction of evidence." 
[Neighbor Roger] Koenig said it took the three men [an off-duty sheriff's deputy showed up too] nearly an hour and a half to load the animal -- which they estimated to weigh between 700 and 800 pounds -- into the pickup truck, and even then part of its rear quarters were hanging over the open end of the bed. He said the men talked about needing a roadkill tag for the animal so it could be driven out of the area.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has gotten involved in the case. They should have been called first thing, since this was (allegedly) a wildlife issue. Now we will see if they have the balls to prosecute officer Sam Carter and his pals or if "professional courtesy" will prevail.

They could be prosecuted under "Samson's Law":
Samson's Law, passed in 1998 after a well-known bull elk in Estes Park was killed by a poacher who was fined just a few hundred dollars, adds substantial fines for the killing of trophy animals. The killing of a bull elk with six-point antlers or larger can carry a fine of up to $10,000, on top of the other criminal penalties for violating hunting rules.
 Which ought to do serious damage to someone's law-enforcement career.