WY: Wyoming Elk Poacher Nailed After Truck Gets Stuck And He Brags On Social Media

Wyoming Elk Poacher Nailed After Truck Gets… | Cowboy State Daily


A chain of events set off by a pickup getting stuck in a remote part of Carbon County led to a Rawlins man getting nailed for poaching an elk and losing his hunting and fishing privileges, among other penalties.

The case began with the illegal killing of a bull elk south of Rawlins in October, and was recently resolved by Corey Cruz of Rawlins pleading guilty to a charge of intentionally taking an antlered elk without a proper license, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“It could be said that what was unfortunate for the hunters was very fortunate for game wardens and legal sportsmen,” Baggs Game and Fish Game Warden Kim Olson, who took part in the investigation, told Cowboy State Daily.

Carbon County Search and Rescue was called out late Oct. 31 after some hunters reported their friend missing south of Rawlins, according to Game and Fish.

They’d gotten their truck stuck near Littlefield Creek, and a member of the party had decided to try walking north back to Rawlins.

“Carbon County Dispatch Center received a call from another elk hunter just after daybreak on Nov. 1, 2023, who reported finding a disoriented individual near Miller Hill who matched the description of the missing individual,” according to Game and Fish.

Search and rescue personnel reported finding “blood and other indications” of a big game kill at the scene, Olson said.

That and other information that “did not add up” prompted wardens to investigate, according to Game and Fish.

The next day, wardens found an elk gut pile about 100 yards from the truck, but the carcass, head and antlers had been taken away.

Cruz had previously told search and rescue personnel that he’d killed a bull elk on a general tag in Hunt Area 21, which was about two miles away from where he’d gotten his truck stuck, according to Game and Fish.

The truck was in Elk Hunt Area 108. That’s a limited quota area for elk, for which Cruz didn’t have a tag, according to the agency.

General elk tags may be bought over the counter. Hunters must apply months in advance for a chance to draw limited quota tags for those designated hunt areas.

General tags may not be used for elk in limited-quota areas.

Later, photos of Cruz posing with a bull elk popped up on social media and were passed along to a game warden.

Wardens went back to where the truck and been stuck and determined that the surroundings matched the location in the photos.

That, along with other evidence and information gleaned from interviews with the hunters, was enough to bring the poaching charge, according to Game and Fish.

Getting stuck probably initiated Cruz’s undoing.

“It was evident that the truck became stuck while they were attempting to get the elk out; so, after it had been harvested,” Olson said.

Cruz was charged in February and pled guilty in May, according to Game and Fish.

He was fined $1,570 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 82 days suspended and credit for eight days already served in the Carbon County Detention Center.

His hunting and fishing privileges were also suspended for five years in 49 states.

Wyoming, along with every other state except Hawaii, is part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.

Under the compact, hunters convicted of crimes that cost them their hunting privileges in any participating state, they also lose hunting privileges in all the other states.

Poaching cases can be extremely difficult to unravel, Olson said, adding that it was gratifying to see the way this case came together.

“Sometimes, but not often, do the stars all line up for the perfect case for game wardens,” Olson said. “I think over the course of my almost 30 years, I have had this happen four other times.”

Another of those “stars-all-line-up” cases happened in September 2021 when a game warden responded to a report of hunters trespassing on private land.

After giving one of the hunters a ride back to his vehicle, the warden heard a “clanking sound” as the man got out.

Expecting it was just “empty brass,” the warden instead quickly discovered the illegal hunter had dropped his meth pipe.

“Usually, we have to work extremely hard to make a case, and every once in a while we catch a good break and, as I like to say, God smiles down on me,” Olson said.


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