Rawlins Man Pleads Guilty to Killing an Antlered Elk Without Proper License

A case regarding the illegal killing of a bull elk in a limited quota hunt area on Oct. 31, 2023, was recently closed after multiple tips and an investigation by local game wardens identified the suspect as Corey Cruz of Rawlins, Wyoming.

On the night of Oct. 31, 2023, Carbon County Search and Rescue received a report of a missing elk hunter south of Rawlins. Members of the hunting party reported that their truck had broken down, and one individual had attempted to walk north to Rawlins. The remaining party members were picked up, but could not locate the individual who took off on foot. The search and rescue operation continued throughout the night, and the Carbon County Dispatch Center received a call from another elk hunter just after daybreak on Nov. 1, 2023, who reported finding a disoriented individual near Miller Hill who matched the description of the missing individual.

On Nov. 1, 2023, game wardens from Rawlins and Baggs were informed of the search and rescue operation and the stuck truck near Littlefield Creek. The search and rescue crew passed information that they had learned while searching for the missing elk hunter to the game wardens, but the information did not add up. The information from the search and rescue crew began the initial investigation involving the bull elk illegally killed in Elk Hunt Area 108.

When the local game wardens responded to the scene on Nov. 1, 2023, they located a gut pile from a bull elk within 100 yards of the stuck truck. The carcass, head and antlers from the bull elk had been removed from the scene before the arrival of the game wardens. The owner of the stuck vehicle, Corey Cruz, had told the search and rescue crew that he had killed a bull elk in general elk hunt area 21, approximately 2 miles away, on Oct. 31.. However, game wardens learned Cruz only possessed a general elk license and did not possess a limited quota elk license for Elk Hunt Area 108. 

As time passed, photos of Cruz posing with a bull elk were seen on social media and passed along to a game warden. Wardens returned to the location where the truck had been environmentally detained and matched the photos of Cruz posing with the bull elk to the same location. Through the ensuing investigation, subjects from the hunting party were interviewed, and evidence was gathered showing that Cruz had indeed illegally killed the bull elk in Wyoming Elk Hunt Area 108, not Wyoming Elk Hunt Area 21 as he had previously claimed.

On Feb. 5, 2024, Corey Cruz of Rawlins was charged with intentionally taking an antlered elk without a proper license under W.S. 23-3-102(d). On May 15, 2024, Cruz pled guilty to the charge. Cruz was fined $1,570 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 82 days suspended and credit for eight days served in the Carbon County Detention Center. Cruz also received a 5-year suspension of his hunting and fishing privileges in Wyoming and all member states of the Wildlife Violator Compact.

Solving this case would not have been possible without the help of concerned citizens promptly making a report. Collaborative work between the Green River and Lander regions of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Carbon County Attorney’s office was essential to resolving this crime. 

“We are grateful that a call was made when things didn’t add up. Often, all it takes is one person to do the right thing, be courageous and be the voice for wildlife,” said Kim Olson, Baggs Game Warden.