Women face racketeering,
forgery charges in illegal hunting-operation case
—DAN WILLIAMS, NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF GAME
RESERVE, NM—Two Catron County women were arrested in
February and charged with more than sixty felonies combined,
in connection with a hunting operation that allegedly involved
racketeering, forged licenses, fraud, outfitting without a
license, and other illegal activities.
Rita N. Floyd, fifty-three, and Celeste D. Core, fifty-four,
both of Pleasanton, New Mexico, are named in criminal complaints
filed in the Seventh Judicial District Court, in Reserve.
Floyd was arrested and jailed in Sonora, California, where
she currently is on probation for a previous felony conviction.
Core was arrested in Pleasanton on a no-bond warrant and booked
into the Catron County Jail, in Reserve. The two women also
are charged with a combined 134 misdemeanors in connection
with their roles as owners and operators of Get Gold Adventures
and Outfitters, which advertised and sold hunts in New Mexico
The criminal complaints allege that Floyd and Core forged
licenses and sold hunts for deer, elk, bear, mountain lions,
bobcats, and turkeys to numerous out-of-state hunters on eBay,
over the telephone, and by e-mail. The fraud charges include
allegations that after receiving money for the hunts, Floyd
and Core did not provide a hunt at all, did not provide the
services advertised, or did not provide the type of hunt that
was promised. The Catron County Sheriff’s Office, the
district attorney’s office, the New Mexico State Police,
and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisted the department
of game and fish in the case.
The arrests followed an investigation by the department
that began in October 2004, when two Minnesota hunters noticed
something wrong with their licenses and called a conservation
officer. The case is the second in less than a month in which
felony charges were filed in connection with racketeering
and license forgery.
On January 25 a Marquez, New Mexico, husband-and-wife outfitting
team was indicted by a Cibola County grand jury on sixty-six
felony charges in connection with an alleged operation in
which counterfeit licenses for trophy elk hunts were sold
to out-of-state hunters.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish encourages citizens
to report poaching and other wildlife-related crimes by calling
the department’s toll-free Operation Game Thief Line,
1- 800-432-4263. Callers can remain anonymous and may receive
rewards if charges are filed.
Eight elk euthanized near Clayton as precaution
against livestock diseases
CLAYTON, NM—The New Mexico Department
of Game and Fish has euthanized eight free-ranging but apparently
captive-bred elk discovered on private ranch lands near here
Primarily, the action was necessary to prevent the potential
transmission of chronic wasting disease, brucellosis, bovine
tuberculosis, and other diseases to wild elk and livestock
in the vicinity. Necropsies of the animals are being conducted
at the state veterinary laboratory, and the animals will be
tested for all wildlife and livestock diseases.
Lief Ahlm, northeast area chief for the department, said
five adult elk among the eight euthanized had holes in their
ears, indicating that at one time they had carried ear tags.
"The animals were also very tame and not afraid of people,"
Ahlm said. "We don't know where they came from, but they
obviously are not wild."
The investigation into the appearance of these animals is
continuing. New Mexico currently has very strict regulations
on the importation of elk. The elk were removed from the wild
with the full cooperation of the landowners where the elk
were found and Dr. Steve England, the New Mexico state veterinarian.
"We just can't risk the health of our one hundred thousand
wild elk when we find suspect animals like this," Ahlm
"Dr. England and other representatives of the livestock
Hunting, fishing, and wildlife-related recreation are a
$1 billion industry in New Mexico, Ahlm said.
Seabird may drop off the endangered list
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in October that
it will move forward with plans to remove the marbled murrelet,
a small seabird, from under the protective wing of the Endangered
The robin-sized bird, which lays its eggs on the moss-covered
branches of old-growth trees, has hampered Northwest logging
for more than a decade. Scientists say the species is sliding
toward extinction in Oregon, Washington and California. However,
the Bush administration has concluded that the birds in these
states do not differ enough from more numerous murrelets in
Canada and Alaska to merit protection on their own.
Biologists in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional
office in Portland, Ore., said last year that there were clear
enough differences between murrelet populations to necessitate
the protection of the birds in the Northwest. Their draft
report stated that the loss of any murrelet populations would
"compromise (the species’) long-term viability."
But Craig Manson, assistant secretary of the Department
of Interior for fish, wildlife and parks, reversed the findings.
The language about "long-term viability" was deleted
from the final report, which argued that new wildlife safeguards
in Canada would be sufficient to save the species.
Canadian scientists are skeptical, however. "I don’t
think the U.S. can expect Canada to provide extra murrelets,"
says Alan Burger, a murrelet biologist at the University of
Victoria, "because ours are in trouble as well."
High Country News (www.hcn.org)
covers the West's communities and natural-resource issues
from Paonia, Colorado.