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Deer, elk poaching suspected

SANTA FE, N.M. — Two warrants to search the home and vehicles of a Tierra Amarilla resident have turned up deer, elk and bear parts that New Mexico Game and Fish officers believe were poached in violation of state game laws, according to court documents.

A Santa Fe assistant district attorney signed off on the warrants and the filing of criminal charges is up to that office. Online court records show no charges had been filed against the suspect as of Thursday.

The officer who signed the warrants wrote that he “has reason to believe the crime of unlawful possession of deer is being committed by” the suspect.

According to the affidavit for the warrants:

The wildlife officers learned from a confidential informant that the 34-year-old suspect had “eight, ‘big’ freshly killed and skinned deer skulls with antlers attached in his residence.”

They were thought to be fresh kills and officers believe the suspect had been dropped off on foot to hunt late at night along N.M. 112 and U.S. 64. A Game and Fish officer corroborated the informant’s information through an independent investigation.

One officer said he had seen the suspect driving along N.M. 112 many times at slow speeds in December and late November. Also in December, another officer investigated four headless deer found along the same road.

“This area has a high volume of illegal hunting” and “illegal hunters are known to drive at slow speeds, looking for deer and kill them from the roadway,” Officer Shawn Carrell wrote in the affidavit.

Carrell said he found a bear hide in a freezer at the suspect’s home on County Road 348 and an elk skull with antlers attached in a hay barn after serving the search warrants on Sunday at about 8 a.m.

The day before the warrants were served, two officers saw what appeared to be deer rib cages, legs and a deer skull on the suspect’s property.

The suspect told Carrell that he found the bear dead in a lake and later picked up a bear license and that the elk skull was “picked up within the Chama Land and Cattle Company property owned by the Jicarilla Apache Nation,” said the documents.

The bear hide was not tagged by Game and Fish within five days of kill or possession as required by law and the suspect did not have “any lawful paperwork which allowed him to possess the elk skull with the antlers attached,” according to the documents.

The suspect works for the Land and Cattle Company but a manager there said no company employees “had legally killed a deer on the ranch,” according to the affidavits.

A search of the Game and Fish license database showed the suspect purchased a bear hunting license in 2012 but no other licenses, according to the court documents.

In addition to the game parts seized, officers also took a Winchester model 70 7-mm with scope, a laptop, cellphones and binders.

A Game and Fish spokeswoman said on Thursday that she could not comment on the case.