The Paw Print
The Colorado Division of Wildlife is conducting an investigation into the killing of five deer on the ASC campus in the early morning hours of April 22. The investigation is being led by the CDOW because the crime involves wildlife, but the investigation is being coordinated with the ASCPD. ASCPD officer Layne Hall responded to a call from police dispatch at approxiamately 2 a.m. and found the deer had been killed, according to Adams State Police Chief Joel Shults.
The five deer, three bucks and two fawn, were found in an area south of First St. between Richardson Ave. and Edgemont Blvd. Two of the deer were found in the vacant lot where the KASF building used to be, and the other three were discovered in two groups near the ES building.
“One cartridge and several empty shell casings were found on campus and collected by Department of Wildlife agents,” said Shults. “They have recovered slugs from the deer during the autopsy, but haven’t told us of any definitive caliber match or the type of weapon.”
An internal memo sent by Alamosa Police Department Chief John Jackson to the Alamosa City Manager’s Office on Friday states, “Without going into too many details, the deer were killed by being shot in the head and then stabbed. I will note that this happened after we discussed the deer issue at the city council meeting.”
The issue of the ever-increasing deer population has become a troublesome topic of late. During the public comment period at the beginning of the April 21 meeting of the Alamosa City Council, Leon Moyer, who lives outside the city limits, was one of many citizens to express concern about the issue. “You’ve got too many deer. Maybe it’s time to address that issue,” he said.
Mayor Kathy Rogers said the city has tried to address the deer problem before, and that council members have attended meetings with the Division of Wildlife to discuss possible courses of action.
Don Koskelin, the Alamosa Assistant City Manager, said, “One thing we can do is prohibit feeding the deer. Population control for deer is difficult. The options are very limited.”
Later, Jackson stated that all five of the animals had been inflicted with a single stab wound to the heart. “They were methodically and systematically killed,” he said. The two methods of attack on the deer have officials speculating that the suspect or suspects may have hunter’s field dressing experience.
Rick Basagoitia, Area Wildlife Manager at the Division of Wildlife, in comments made to the Valley Courier, said that all the animals had been shot by a small caliber gun, but there hasn’t been a determination as to the exact type of weapon. He said the deer probably did not run away after the first shot because a small caliber gun does not make a lot of noise. Some police officials have reasoned that a noise suppressor could have possibly been attached as well.
Shults added, “It’s very common for anybody who may have heard anything to explain away what they heard as fireworks or something like that and not really think anything more of it.”
No motive or suspects have been identified, but Shults said, “We are trying to contact one or two persons of interest who may have information that can help in the investigation.”
Basagoitia said the person or persons responsible could face numerous poaching charges, most of them misdemeanors. One felony charge, willful destruction of wildlife, could be made in connection with the crime. It carries with it a maximum penalty of 3 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Other possible charges could be made by ASC police, said Shults, including the discharge of a firearm on campus and reckless endangerment.
“As bad as it is to say, the death of the deer isn’t the biggest problem here,” said Shults. “The really unsettling thing is that there was a weapon fired inside the campus community, and that some people don’t feel safe on campus.”
The CDOW said in the press release on their website that a reward is possible if a tip leads to a conviction. Basagoitia said, “Typically, when people do something like this, they talk about it. Any talk heard or overheard could help us.”
Shults concluded his interview with the Paw Print by stating that, “Time is definitely of the essence. The semester is ending within a matter of weeks, and anyone who might have noticed anything out of the ordinary will most likely be leaving Alamosa for the summer. If anyone has any information, it’s very important that they come forward.”
In addition, The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.
Wildlife officials estimate that for every wild animal killed legally – tens of millions of animals per year – another is killed illegally. Less than five percent of poachers are caught, even though thousands of poachers are arrested nationwide ever year.
“The individual responsible for this disturbing poaching incident callously slaughtered five deer and put the public’s safety at risk,” said Holly Tarry, Colorado state director for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States applauds the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Adams State College Police Department for their efforts to find those responsible for this serious crime.”
Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact the CDOW’s Monte Vista office at 719-587-6900, Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648, or the ASCPD at 719-587-7901. Shults also said that he could be contacted directly via call or text at 719-480-1987.