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DOW Insider 12/14/11

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Colorado Parks and Wildlife law enforcement officers checked nearly 180 vehicles and issued 22 citations during a wildlife check station on Interstate 70 in November. It was the first wildlife check station conducted on a major Colorado interstate in nearly 20 years.

The two-day operation, held Nov. 7 and 8, diverted all west-bound I-70 traffic into the Colorado Department of Transportation's Port of Entry weigh station in Loma, 18 miles west of Grand Junction. There, wildlife officers conducted hunting and fishing satisfaction surveys, collected DNA samples from harvested big game and conducted compliance checks regarding applicable game laws.

About 1,755 vehicles entered the check station. Only vehicles whose passengers had been hunting or fishing were asked to enter the search bays. Other motorists were quickly sent on their way.

"We were pleased but not surprised that a vast majority of the hunters and anglers we contacted were in compliance with the law," said Check Station Supervisor and Area Wildlife Manger JT Romatzke. "We remind everyone that responsible hunters and anglers are the first line of defense for Colorado's wildlife resources."

Most of the 300 people contacted were in full compliance with state laws and hunting regulations, but 13 hunters were cited for a total of 22 charges for various infractions including illegal possession of wildlife and failing to provide evidence of the sex of their harvest. One driver is being investigated for being in possession of 78 white bass and two walleye. The source of the fish is still under investigation. Officers seized all illegally harvested wildlife.

Colorado State Patrol arrested one motorist for driving with a revoked license.

All incidents are still under investigation and a total amount of fines has not been determined pending the final disposition of the cases.

Personal contact with sportsmen - a primary goal of the check station - provided wildlife managers first-hand opinions about the current hunting season and provided valuable wildlife management information. The vast majority of sportsmen contacted not only reported their overall satisfaction with their Colorado hunting or fishing experiences, but also expressed their support for the check station.

"We understand that not everyone will be 100 percent satisfied," said Romatzke. "But we were pleased to hear that the vast majority of our contacts had good, and in some cases, great hunting or fishing experiences in Colorado, and they understood the need for a check station."

Approximately 120 officers participated in the 24-hour check station, including 97 from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, eight Colorado State Patrol and two Colorado State Patrol dispatchers, three Mesa County Sheriff's deputies, nine officers from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and two Utah Department of Wildlife Resources officers. In addition, CDOT Port of Entry weigh station authorities temporarily closed their facilities to commercial traffic, providing the space required for the large-scale operation. First responders from the Lower Valley Fire Protection District in Fruita were available for any medical emergencies.

Small-scale wildlife check stations are conducted throughout the state on smaller roads every year. However, an Interstate check station had not been held in Colorado since 1993 because of the enormous amount of resources and manpower necessary to staff these large-scale operations.

"It was a well-executed operation by all those involved," said Area Wildlife Manager and Check Station Supervisor JT Romatzke. "We planned it for nearly five months, and it paid off, making it likely that we will conduct more of these in the future."

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