When an out-of-state hunter shot a bull elk on a sliver of public land near Telluride’s Valley Floor last November, members of the local community were outraged. Although officials determined that he took the animal legally, hunters and non-hunters alike criticized the out-of-stater, who was forced to field-dress and quarter the elk in front of a small audience after it ran down into the Valley Floor and died. Some pointed to public safety concerns of discharging a firearm so close to a popular multi-use trail system, while others chalked it up to an unethical decision, telling the Telluride Daily Planet that “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” The fact that the bull was part of a resident elk herd that lives on the Valley Floor for much of the year exacerbated the public’s negative perception of the hunter.
When Outdoor Life covered this controversial incident in November, officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife had investigated and confirmed that the hunter, Gerald R. Sanchez of Shallowater, Texas, took the bull legally on U.S. Forest Service land. GPS coordinates confirmed that both Sanchez and the elk were on a small piece of public land known as “the Wedge”—which is located uphill of the Valley Floor and is part of Game Management Unit 70—when Sanchez shot the animal on the morning of Nov. 6.
The recent guilty plea, however, reveals the hunter’s actions leading up to and following the shot were in violation of a local ordinance, reports the Telluride Daily Planet, and the Town of Telluride brought charges against Sanchez in February.
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According to the newspaper, Sanchez violated Ordinance 1289 when he stepped onto the Valley Floor while carrying a firearm. The town alleged that Sanchez violated this ordinance twice: once when he crossed the Valley Floor to access the Wedge, and again when walked down into the Valley Floor to field dress and pack out the elk. This iconic open space, which is situated on the outskirts of Telluride, is privately owned by the town. It is also under a strict conservation easement that expressly prohibits “hunting and using the [Valley Floor] Property to access nearby areas on which to hunt,” as well as “feeding, disturbing, trapping, hunting, or killing wildlife [there],” according to the TDP.
Sanchez pled guilty to the charge of carrying a firearm on the Valley Floor, and he paid a fine of $500. Sanchez also faced trespassing charges for allegedly crossing the Valley Floor to reach the Wedge, but the town dismissed these charges in exchange a guilty plea to the hunting violation.
“This plea avoided the time and expense of a trial on all charges, but yielded the most desirable result—conviction for hunting on the Valley Floor,” Allie Slaten, Telluride’s assistant town attorney, told the Daily Planet.