US wildlife workers plead guilty to poaching-related charges


DENVER (AP) — Two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees pleaded guilty to poaching-related charges in the killing of a trophy-class bull elk in western Colorado, state officials said Tuesday.

Thad Bingham, 44, and Brian Scheer, 45, pleaded guilty to trespassing on private land that was closed to hunting at the time of the 2014 incident, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said.

Bingham also pleaded guilty to illegal wildlife possession, the state said. Bingham shot the animal with a bow and arrow, Porras said. Scheer and two other men — who didn’t work for the federal agency — were along on the hunt, he said.

The investigation began after Bingham posted a photo of himself with the elk online, and state officers could tell from the image that the area was off-limits to hunting, officials said.

Investigators obtained warrants to search a federal fish hatchery where Bingham and Scheer work as well as Bingham’s home. Officers recovered the elk’s antlers at Bingham’s home, Porras said.

No phone number could be found for Bingham or Scheer. Both live in Fruita.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Anna Munoz said both men still work for the agency, but she couldn’t comment on whether the service took any action against them.

“Poachers come from all walks of life, but everyone is subject to the same rules and regulations,” said JT Romatzke, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager.

State officials identified the other two men on the hunt as Josh Fitzsimmons, 45, of Rifle and Barrett Rowles, 48 of Collbran. Both pleaded guilty to trespassing, the state said.

Fitzsimmons didn’t immediately return a phone message. No number could be found for Rowles.

Bingham was fined $200 and ordered to donate $5,000 to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The other three were fined $86 each.

They could also lose their Colorado hunting and fishing privileges for five years after a review by a hearing officer.

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Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/dan-elliott.

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