COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Two Florida men who pleaded guilty in a poaching case in 2018 have been sentenced and will likely never hunt in Colorado ever again, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.
CPW said both men — Timothy C. Draper, 33, and Lawrence J. Cowart, 30, both of Bunnell, Florida — were part of a 10-month poaching operation that involved the illegal killing of at least three mule deer and six pronghorn in Elbert and Lincoln Counties.
In December 2018, Draper pleaded guilty in Lincoln County Court to a misdemeanor charge of illegal possession of three or more big game. On Feb. 11, a CPW Commission hearing examiner ruled that he'd receive a 20-year suspension of his hunting privileges in Colorado. He was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and was forced to forfeit all his weapons and equipment used in the crime. Draper paid a $2,100 game penalty. That, plus fines and court costs, landed him a total cost of more than $4,000, CPW said.
The other man, Cowart, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2018 in Lincoln County Court to willful destruction of wildlife, which is a class 5 felony. The hearing examiner issued a lifetime ban of hunting in Colorado for him. He was sentenced to three years probation and forfeited his firearms and equipment used in the crime. He paid $2,440 in fines and court costs.
Both Draped and Cowart surrendered the trophy heads of the animals, CPW said.
CPW Commission Hearing Examiner Steven Cooley said Cowart's crimes against local wildlife were committed with complete disregard.
“Mr. Cowart has a history of violating wildlife laws in his home state of Florida and in North Carolina," he wrote in his findings. "His most recent wildlife violations in Colorado are considered among the most serious of criminal activity against wildlife, where an animal is killed for its trophy parts and the meat is abandoned to waste. ... Given his history and escalating criminal behavior, Mr. Cowart is viewed as a threat to Colorado’s wildlife. Although he expressed remorse during his suspension hearing, his repeated criminal actions against wildlife do not reflect this.”
Draper, on the other hand, did not express much remorse for his actions. He's an adult and experienced hunter who could have stopped at any time, Cooley said.
“Timothy Draper has repeatedly demonstrated a deliberate lack of regard for Colorado’s wildlife,” Cooley wrote. “His actions are not viewed as hunting, but rather as outright poaching, done without any valid license, or outside established hunting seasons."
In 2018, CPW officers launched an investigation into the two men, who they believed were in Colorado working in the energy industry, and had killed the animals and shipped their heads to a taxidermist in Florida. CPW found that the men killed the animals, decapitated them and left their torsos. In Colorado, it is illegal to remove only the hide, antlers or other trophy parts of a big game animal and leave the carcass behind.
Colorado Springs Police Department, the Limon Police Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office helped CPW with this case.
The two men were caught after a member of the public submitted a tip to CPW's poaching hotline, Operation Game Thief.
Anybody who has information on a possible crime against wildlife should call the hotline at 877-265-6648 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anybody who reaches out through those avenues does not need to reveal their name or testify in court. A person who calls with information on cases involving endangered animals or big game can earn a reward up to $500. In addition, $250 is offered for information turkey cases, and $100 is offered for information on fishing or small game cases.