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Colorado Man Busted For Late-Night Poaching

in News/wildlife/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Colorado man was sentenced to pay more than $3,300 in fines for poaching multiple big game animals.

Dylan Zuber, 23, of Grand Junction was charged with 20 counts of wildlife violations, including willful destruction of wildlife and the illegal possession of three or more big game animals. He pleaded guilty to one count each of willful destruction of wildlife, illegal possession of three or more big game animals and hunting with artificial light on July 26.

As part of the adjudication of the criminal case, Zuber was ordered to donate $2,500 to Colorado Operation Game Thief and pay $3,360.50 in fines and court costs.

In June 2020, CPW Officer Zac Chrisman received information from an anonymous party suggesting Zuber and a friend had poached a buck and doe mule deer on Piñon Mesa in Mesa County. On the same night, Zuber’s friend was in a fatal rollover vehicle accident.

In the following days, Chrisman, with the help of other wildlife officers in Grand Junction, was able to locate the carcasses of a buck and doe mule deer in locations consistent with the report.

Over the course of the investigation, more illegal animals were discovered, and it became obvious that this was not the first time Zuber had killed wildlife illegally.

After a thorough investigation, wildlife officers filed the case with the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office.

“I would like to thank the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office for their hard work and dedication on this important case,” Chrisman said. “Poachers who steal wildlife from law-abiding citizens will not be tolerated.”

A Mesa County judge sentenced Zuber to a four-year deferred judgement for the felony charge of willful destruction of wildlife, which includes a court ordered prohibition of hunting and possession of firearms as well as 50 hours of community service.

Zuber’s conviction makes him eligible for suspension of all hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges in Colorado and the other 47 states in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. This possible suspension will be determined at a later date.

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YouTuber Investigates Historic Wichita State University Plane Crash In Colorado

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The trail up to the site of the plane crash was fairly well traveled despite being a lung buster.

Over the years since the plane went down in October 1970, killing 31 Wichita State University football team players, coaches and staff, many of the family members of the deceased — and of the nine who survived — have made the trek up the mountain to pay their respects.

A dirt road off I-70, just west of Silver Plume near Loveland Ski Area, provides easy access to the trailhead.

On this day almost 51 years after the crash, the group climbing up to see the wreckage was led by Dan Gryder, a pilot and creator of the YouTube channel “Probable Cause” and about two dozen fans of his show, mostly pilots, and a couple other YouTubers here to meet Gryder and film their own shows.

It’s also Gryder’s 60th birthday, so along with a hike to see a plane crash site he’s been reading about for decades, he celebrated the occasion by offering the opportunity for some of his viewers — who he is meeting for the first time — to join him on the excursion. With him are his two sons, Drew and Dylan, both of whom are also pilots.

Admittedly, the hike up might kill him, Gryder joked as he headed up the gravel road to the trail, given that he’s an “old fat guy from Georgia.” 

There are a couple things to know about Gryder and his channel.

For starters, he’s a prolific video creator who doesn’t believe in fancy editing or graphics. Instead, he grabs his cell phone and just starts filming, ignoring those who try to get out his way. 

He also has a heart for this cause which compels him to fly all over the country to visit the sites of airplane crashes and then investigate their cause. In most crashes, he disagrees with whatever the National Safety and Transportation Board (NTSB) concludes.

He openly berates the NTSB on his channel as being too slow, not not thorough enough and sometimes just failing to see what he believes is the obvious cause of an airplane crash, despite the agency having a team of 500 investigators.

In fact, according to Gryder, the NTSB gets it wrong about 90% of the time, an allegation that the NTSB more or less ignores.

Gryder further objects to the lack of aviation experience among members of the NTSB’s five-member investigative board. According to bios on their website, only two members of the board, Bruce Landsberg and Michael Graham, are registered pilots.

In a statement to Cowboy State Daily, Keith Holloway with NTSB doesn’t acknowledge any specific examples of what Gryder called improper conclusions about airplane crashes on the agency’s part.

Instead, Holloway provided a blanket statement about the agency’s work.

“The probable causes from these investigations are determined by the facts and data that has been reviewed during the investigative process,” Holloway said. “Roughly 80% of the safety recommendations issued by the NTSB across all modes of transportation have been adopted and has proven to make, in this case, the aviation industry safer.”

To that, Gryder responds with an eye roll and rattles off a laundry list of cases in which he vehemently believes they got wrong.

The agency’s faulty track record, he said, is what prompted him to start his “tiny little fledging YouTube channel,” which in recent weeks has had more than 1 million hits on a single video, despite having just under 28,000 subscribers. 

Along with tweaking NTSB, Gryder also baits the “haters” on his site by publicly asking them to leave or not subscribe. He doesn’t care how many subscribers he has nor does he have any intention on monetizing his site in order to give him carte blanche to speak his mind. 

“I have a cell phone and a banjo,” it says on his home page. “If you don’t like it, then don’t watch. It’s very simple.”

His opinions carry a lot of weight with his fans, including the couple dozen pilots who have joined him on today’s hike to hear his particular insights as he investigates the site himself.

As one pilot who flew out for the day from North Carolina said, he wants to learn everything possible about what not to do wrong. He’s a new pilot, having recently retired from his veterinarian practice.

After retirement, he bought his own plane and learned to fly within the last two years. Other pilots, too, are eager to watch Gryder in action as he makes his assessment, which, not surprisingly, doesn’t wholly line up with the NTSB, who he said got it partly wrong yet again.

Despite the levity of Gryder’s banter, there’s a collective silence when the group finally locates the remnants of the plane, which have more or less remained intact, and the makeshift memorials left on site by loved ones.

Grave stones, Shockers jerseys, sepia-toned old photos, a favorite soda, a soccer ball painted blue and white and a host of other items have been left behind to honor the memories of the young football players, most of whom were 21 and younger, who died on the mountainside just over 50 years ago.

The sear marks burnt into the side of the mountain mark the spot where the fuselage exploded into flames. Shredded fragments of burnt and oxidized aluminum are flung like confetti in the shadows of the towering pines.

A patch of clear blue sky poked through the canopy of trees, mirroring almost exactly the weather conditions of that day.

More than anything, Gryder and the others are blown away by how much debris from the plane has survived intact nearly 50 years later. It’s rare that any wreckage remains, he said, and sometimes it might take him all day just to find a tiny scrap of the plane. 

Typically, the pieces are immediately removed after the forensic investigation which, according to the NTSB, is the decision of either the owner of the plane or insurance company, which is ultimately responsible for removing it. 

This, as it were, Gryder noted, presents a fairly palpable object lesson.

Of all the crashes he’s investigated, this one strikes him as more tragic, he said, given the number of lost lives and the fact that it never should have happened.

There were two planes carrying the Shocker football team from Kansas to Utah. One landed safely at Logan Airport while the other opted to take a scenic detour.

Along with being overweight, the pilots also hadn’t charted their course that day which all agree was particularly irresponsible given their lack of experience flying at high altitude, which requires its own special skill set. 

Of the 40 people on board, nine survived, including one of the pilots and owner of the plane Ronald Skipper.

The official cause of the accident was pilot error, according to the NTSB, which ruled that Skipper and pilot Danny Crocker, who died in the crash, flew into a box canyon at an altitude too low to clear the mountains.

By the time they realized they were too low, Crocker attempted to turn the plane around, but the canyon was too narrow. 

Poor in-flight decisions and inadequate pre-flight planning were also blamed for the tragedy, per NTSB. Contributing to the crash was the weight of the plane, the fact pilots had neglected to submit a flight plan and the fact the pilots were not familiar with the territory.

To this day, Skipper maintains that the plane crashed because the right engine caught on fire and failed and that he did everything he could to avert disaster.

In the end, Skipper’s license was revoked by the Federal Aviation Administration, but then reinstated about a year later, according to a 2014 article in the Wichita Eagle.

The fuselage was intact when the plane crashed into the side of the mountain, Gryder said, but immediately burst into flames upon impact. 

After studying the canyon, Gryder surprised himself with a new realization about what might have gone wrong. On one hand, the NTSB had it right, he said.

Yes, it was definitely pilot error though ultimately, it was also a conflict of interest. He’s referring to the fact that Skipper, who signed the pilot’s paychecks, was the one giving orders that day, effectively changing seats with the pilot mid-flight. 

“He (Skipper) in effect became the captain of the flight when he shouldn’t have been, and should not have been giving orders,” Gryder said. “Those guys swap seats, and the other guys started giving the orders, there’s a problem…and one that still hasn’t been fixed today.”

Gryder also concluded that the crash was actually a result of an aerodynamic stall prior to making that left bank turn. 

“I think these guys became test pilots, trying to steep, crank it over steeply to get out of the predicament they’re in,” he said, noting that there was actually enough room in the box canyon to get the plane turned around. “So, it wasn’t the box canyon that got him.”

After 20 years of instructing in a DC-3, Gryder can attest it would have required a special set of skills and familiarity to make the 40-degree angle turn at an airspeed at 12,000 feet, he said.

Regardless of what happened that day, there’s no consolation to be had in further debating the cause as the group wanders through the wreckage, members picking their way through memorials erected by the generations of friends and family members whose lives were irrevocably impacted when that plane failed to clear the mountain. 

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Wyoming, Colorado Wildlife Officials Warn of Livestock, Bighorn Sheep Mixing

in News/wildlife
Big Horn Sheep
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming and Colorado officials are warning that the mixing of domestic livestock and bighorn sheep could lead to negative impacts for the region’s bighorn sheep populations.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials this week expressed concern about domestic goats that are used for weed and vegetation control mingling with the bighorn sheep population in Estes Park, due to concern of the potential spread of disease between the domestic animals and the sheep.

The problem is not limited to Estes Park, but could affect the entire state of Colorado and much of the Rocky Mountain West, including Wyoming. Since bighorn sheep are so closely related to the domesticated animal, it is easy for disease to pass between the two, according to Wyoming Wildlife Advocates.

This is a major concern for wildlife managers across the West because diseases such as pneumonia and conjunctivitis can wipe out up to 90% of a bighorn sheep herd, according WWA.

Colorado has around 7,000 bighorn sheep in the state, while Wyoming has around 6,500, according to a report from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep historically existed in tremendous numbers in the western United States.

After being reduced to near extinction in the region, bighorn sheep have made strong recoveries due to efforts by western wildlife management agencies and conservation groups. However, the sheep still face significant threats, especially from diseases transmitted by domestic sheep and goats. 

In the early 2000s, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department created a working group to develop recommendations for preventing the spread of disease between domestic animals and the wild game. The group recommended the introduction of effective vaccines for the animals and the relocation of bighorn sheep to safer areas where they would still be protected.

“It only takes one sheep that contracts a disease to hinder an entire herd,” said Chase Rylands, a wildlife officer in Estes Park.

Adult sheep survivors of such diseases can become chronic carriers and infect lambs every year.

The threat of disease introduction when domestic animals do co-mingle with wild herds is so severe that wildlife officials are sometimes forced to euthanize any wild bighorns that come into contact with the domestic animals and animals that appear to show signs of illness afterward.

Inaction may result in a cascading effect of disease outbreak, death and poor population performance, which could take decades to overcome, wildlife officials said.

“Disease transmission is nothing to be taken lightly with Colorado’s wildlife, especially with bighorns,” Ryands said. “Coexisting with wildlife isn’t always easy, but preventing the comingling of domestic animals with wildlife is most often preventable and essential to sustaining populations of all wildlife.” 

For those with domestic livestock that needs to be separated from bighorn sheep encounters, Colorado Parks and Wildlife suggested implementing sound fencing practices, such as using an electric outrigger fence (two feet from wire fencing) or double fencing (two wire fences with a minimum spacing of at least 10 feet in between and a height of eight feet).

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Colorado Parks Staff Catch Man Dumping Human Waste, Make Him Clean It Up

in News/Recreation
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

We shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t dump (pun intended) human or any other type of waste in streams, lakes or other public bodies of water. It’s gross.

But a man in Colorado was busted doing exactly this on Monday by Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff.

“This man was caught dumping bags of human waste from his camp latrine in a high mountain stream,” said a tweet from Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s northeast office. “Charges were filed for littering public lands after wildlife officer Joe Nicholson supervised him cleaning up the waste.”

The post included two photos, one showing the man in question (although from behind) while he was cleaning up trash in a stream, which is a part of Clear Creek not far outside of Denver.

A follow-up post from the department said that Nicholson wanted to remind people who were camping or recreating in the Clear Creek area and other wildlife spots, to not use natural landscapes or water as a toilet or personal dump.

The man cited received a court summons and a judge will decide the fine for dumping waste in the stream.

According to the National Park Service, people recreating outdoors should use park toilet facilities when possible. Otherwise, they should deposit solid human waste in holes dug six to eight inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. The holes should be covered and disguised when finished.

People should pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.

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Female Bear Euthanized After Attacking Man Inside His Garage In Colorado

in News/Bears
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A female bear was euthanized this weekend after attacking a man at his home near Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Around 11 p.m. Sunday, a man noticed the door to his garage, where he stored birdseed and other bear attractants, was open, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials. The man went to close the door, but upon entering the garage, he encountered a female bear and her two cubs.

As the man attempted to back away from the bears, the sow attacked. She caused serious injuries, including severe lacerations to the man’s head and legs that required surgery.

The victim is in stable condition and his injuries are not considered life-threatening.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers and park rangers responded to the home and began a search for the bear and cubs. The CPW team quickly found the sow near the home. The bear was euthanized and its remains were sent to CPW’s Wildlife Health Lab for necropsy.

Wildlife officers remain in the area searching for the two cubs. When found, officers will work to trap them and move them to a rehabilitation facility.

“This is an unfortunate reminder that we need to stay vigilant and ‘bear aware’ at all times,” Kyle Bond, CPW district wildlife manager, said. “Easy access to food will always override a bear’s natural fear of people, so we humans have to stay on top of keeping all food sources secure.”

This is the first bear attack in the Steamboat Springs area this year, although not in Colorado itself. Earlier this year, a woman was killed by a bear in southern Colorado.

It wasn’t clear if the bear that attacked the man was a grizzly.

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Weld County, Colorado Wants to Join Wyoming

in News
Wyoming sign
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Some voters in a Colorado county are looking to get a measure placed on their November ballot that would have their county secede from Colorado and join Wyoming instead.

That’s according to Weld County, Wyoming, a grassroots organization of voters who are ready to get out of Colorado, but also not move all their belongings to another state.

Instead, these Wyoming supporters would rather annex the county from Colorado and join Wyoming.

“Weld County, WY is a group of Weld County citizens who have a common desire to maintain their way of life,” the group’s website states. “This initiative is to place a measure on the November 2021 ballot. The voters of Weld County will vote as to whether to instruct Weld County Commissioners to engage and explore the annexation of Weld County with the State of Wyoming’s Legislature.”

The Weld County, Wyoming Facebook page has garnered more than 4,700 likes.

The group is looking to circulate a petition calling for the initiative among Weld County voters to garner support for annexing the county and joining Wyoming.

Organizers behind the movement have told media outlets that they feel Weld County has become more aligned with Wyoming regarding various issues, including gun rights and the oil and gas industries, which is why they want to secede from Colorado.

Weld County sits just a few miles from Cheyenne, just over the state border.

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