COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A Colorado Springs man who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor poaching charges in three counties likely will never legally hunt again in Colorado or 47 other states after a Colorado Parks and Wildlife hearing examiner permanently suspended his hunting privileges.
Iniki Vike Kapu, 28, had been accused by Colorado Parks and Wildlife of illegally killing 12 deer, 2 turkeys and a bighorn sheep ram across the region.
Kapu entered one guilty plea in December 2019 in 4th Judicial District Court in Teller County.
Then in February 2020, Kapu appeared in the 11th Judicial District Court in Fremont County and pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a bighorn sheep. He also pleaded guilty to illegal possession of three or more big game animals.
A few days later, as part of the plea agreement, Kapu was fined $4,600 and sentenced to six months in jail and three years supervised probation in Fremont County.
Kapu forfeited all the weapons he used in the poaching incidents.
But that didn’t end his punishment. Last week, CPW hearing examiner Steven Cooley issued his decision permanently suspending Kapu’s hunting privileges.
“Mr. Kapu’s crimes against wildlife are the essence of what defines a poacher by taking wildlife without regard for the laws protecting them,” Cooley wrote in his decision.
“Iniki Kapu is viewed as a serious threat to Colorado’s wildlife and his violations are among the worst. The severity and level of indifference for wildlife in this case are rarely seen and cannot be tolerated.”
And because Colorado is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, Kapu’s lifetime hunting ban extends to the other 47 states that are members of the compact. Only Hawaii and Massachusetts are not yet members of the compact.
“Let this be a warning to anyone out there who is contemplating poaching wildlife in Colorado,” said Frank McGee, CPW area wildlife manager in Colorado Springs. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife aggressively pursues anyone who illegally takes wildlife. When you poach, you are stealing from all residents of Colorado.
“And your acts are an insult to all the hunters who follow the rules, who buy the licenses that pay for wildlife management, who respect the hunting seasons and abide by principles of fair chase.”
Kapu, who declined to participate in the hearing on his hunting privileges, has 35 days to appeal the lifetime suspension to the CPW Commission.
CPW had accused Kapu of illegally killing big game animals in Teller, Fremont and Chaffee counties. The Chaffee County case, also in the 11th Judicial District, wrapped up May 22, 2019, when Kapu pleaded guilty to illegal possession of wildlife and was fined $900.
Kapu’s plea agreements cap an investigation by CPW officers started by a citizen tip about illegal killing of wildlife in October 2018 linked to a red truck, stuck and abandoned on a remote road in the Pike National Forest.
It had a dead deer in the back and the meat was spoiled. In Colorado, hunters are required by law to prepare all harvested big game for human consumption. The removal of hides, antlers, heads and abandoning the animal’s meat can bring up to class-five felony charges against anyone suspected of the crime.
The guilty pleas capped months of investigative work by CPW officers Tim Kroening, Philip Gurule and Kim Woodruff as well as partner agencies including the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office, Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Springs Police Department, the Wyoming Game and Fish Forensic Laboratory and 11th and 4th Judicial District Attorneys’ Offices.
Anyone with information of a possible crime against wildlife is asked to call CPW, or report it anonymously to Operation Game Thief, or OGT. Reach OGT by calling, toll-free, 1-877-COLO-OGT (or 877-265-6648). Verizon users can dial #OGT. Or email CPW at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A $500 reward is offered for information on cases involving big game or endangered species, while $250 is offered for information on turkey and $100 for fishing and small game cases.
A Citizens Committee administers the reward fund, which is maintained by private contributions. The board may approve rewards of up to $1,000 for flagrant cases. Rewards are paid for information that leads to an arrest or a citation being issued.