OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma is just a few days into its gun, deer and elk seasons, and investigating poaching comes with the territory of being a state game warden. But, recent case shows those poaching investigations aren't always confined to the state's borders.
Oklahoma wildlife law enforcement officers executed two search warrants in the state last week, connected to an elk poaching investigation that began in southern Colorado two months ago. One of those warrants was in Oklahoma County.
"Two different search warrants were served at the same time, by two teams of Oklahoma game wardens. All the probable cause information to obtain those warrants was based off of the investigations by Colorado wildlife officers," said Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Capt. Wade Farrar.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife officers were notified when three bull elk were found on private land in Archuleta County, in southern Colorado, during bow season in mid-September. The animals were killed, illegally harvested for their trophy racks, choice pieces of meat, partially skinned and left to rot.
According to court documents filed in Oklahoma County, the property owners knew who might be behind the illegal harvest: two men in camouflage ran off into the woods after being spotted by other hunters. Workers at the private ranch also saw a pickup truck in the area with Oklahoma tags, which was also caught on camera.
"Some trail camera footage of their vehicle and a tag number of the guys involved, which pinpointed who we needed to start looking at," Farrar said. "Then there was the use of some social media, pictures, trophy pictures that were posted on social media."
According to the search warrant affidavit, investigators in Colorado were able to match the surroundings from photos posted by the men on social media to the private land where the elk were found. Investigators believe the illegally-gained spoils were then brought back to Oklahoma, leading to the search warrant that recovered - among a number of items - elk meat and skulls.
News 4 is not identifying the two men involved, as they have not been charged. But, according to the court filings and law enforcement officials, the two could face multiple Oklahoma and Colorado felonies and misdemeanors, as well as federal charges.
"It does give hunters a bad name," Farrar said. "Because, people that do things like this aren’t hunters. They’re poachers.”