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PROBERS WON'T NAME SUSPECT IN WILDLIFE POISONING CASE

Investigators looking into ranchers' alleged illegal use of poison to kill predators in northwestern Colorado and Utah have a suspect, a Colorado wildlife official said Friday.

Bill Haggerty, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife in Grand Junction, said the suspect has been targeted in connection with at least one poison-laced sheep carcass found last week on private ranch property. He declined to identify the suspect.Last week, investigators found three sheep carcasses north of Grand Junction that may have been laced with Temik, a potent poison, Haggerty said.

"It's nasty, nasty stuff," he said. "Breathing the dust residue of this stuff is enough to kill a human in minutes."

Investigators also found several carcasses on private and public rangeland in neighboring Utah, that may have been intentionally laced with poison, he said.

Haggerty said last week's operation, involving about 70 state and federal officers in Colorado and Utah, is part of an on-going investigation initiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Investigators suspect some ranchers of using poisoned carcasses to kill predators like coyotes, bears and birds of prey.

"We have found that certain wool growers will go out and try to poison anything in the area to get rid of any type of predation," he said.

"March is normally the time of year we lose an awful lot of predators and birds of prey to poisoning. That coincides with the time of year that is the beginning of lambing season."

Similar investigations are under way in Wyoming and New Mexico, he said.

Haggerty said the Colorado-Utah investigation will continue at least another 30 days, after which, charges may be filed against the suspect. Federal officials likely will decide the charges, he said.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement officer in Golden would not comment on the specific investigation Friday but said investigators are finding more and more cases of illegal poisoning of predators.

Officials with the Colorado Wool Growers Association also could not be reached for comment.

Haggerty said investigators don't know if the carcasses discovered last week have any connection to the poisoning of five bears in the same area in 1990, but that the poison appears to be the same.

Temik was used to poison the bears, he said. No arrests have been made, and the Division of Wildlife has a standing $5,000 reward for information on the case.

Haggerty said officials are awaiting test results on the sheep carcasses.

"There are three carcasses that we're pretty darn sure we have some pretty mean poisons in them," he said.