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Jun 14, 2010 2:28 PM by Greg Boyce

Man pleads guilty to baiting bighorn sheep

A La Plata County man has pleaded guilty to putting out salt to attract Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in an area northeast of Vallecito Reservoir in southwest Colorado. Baiting big game wildlife in Colorado is illegal.

Dave Hall, 52, who lives in the Vallecito area, pleaded guilty to one count of baiting - a misdemeanor - and was fined $156.50. He also was placed on probation for one year and his hunting privileges have been suspended for one year. He was originally charged with two counts of wildlife baiting and two counts as an accomplice in the illegal take of two bighorn rams. The plea was entered in Hinsdale County Court, the southwest Colorado county where the violation took place.

Hall admitted to spreading more than 1,000 pounds of salt during the last two years in at least four areas northeast of Vallecito Reservoir. He told Colorado Division of Wildlife officers that he placed salt blocks and spread granular salt in numerous areas because he believed the bighorns needed extra nutrition.

According to the Department of Wildlife, animals find natural salt licks and don't need artificial supplements.

Salt is a major attractant for big game animals.  When animals her together in a small area there can be many problems: animals that are bunched up can easily pass diseases and parasites to each other; they become easy prey for mountain lions and easy targets for hunters.

"Once animals get on salt they won't leave, they get addicted to it. Bighorns naturally migrate in and out of areas and this has significantly interrupted their patterns," said District Wildlife Manager Cary Carron, the DOW officer who investigated the case. "The other big problem is that the salt is now embedded in the soil and will attract bighorns to those areas for the next five years or more. There's nothing that can be done to get all of it out of the soil."

Suspected baiting of big game can be reported to a local Department of Wildlife office, or by calling Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648.

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