Why using drones to hunt or harass wildlife is illegal

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers are urging the public to help protect wildlife from the air as drone technology increases.

With the increase of drone technology, CPW says it can cause increased stress and even death for some animals.

“Drones can provide incredible insight to the landscape around us by producing views typically unseen by the majority of people. It’s important for drone operators to understand their surroundings including the impacts to people’s privacy and wildlife health,” said Brian Dreher, terrestrial section manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Part of being a Coloradan is respecting the natural environment around us. As people pick up drone use as a hobby, they also need to understand the importance of conservation ethics.”

 CPW Field Services Assistant Director Heather Dugan said CPW is seeing more cases of people harassing wildlife with drones. Dugan said the use of a drone for hunting is not only a violation of CPW Commission Regulations, but also a violation of the Federal Airborne Hunting Act
 
“The bottom line is, if it’s related to a hunt in any way, you can’t do it,” Dugan said. “For scouting, locating, anything. If they fly before they take an animal, they’re illegal. If they use the drone to locate an animal they may have shot and wounded, they’re illegal.”

Rules:

  • Drone use is restricted for hunters and non-hunters on CPW land
  • It’s illegal to take off or land a drone in any of CPW’s more than 350 state wildlife areas
  • Drone use in state parks is limited to parks with designated areas for model aircraft use
  • Penalties for violating drone laws can range from $70 to as steep as $125,000
  • Do not fly over or near wildlife as this can create stress that may cause significant harm, and even death 
  • Pursuit, harassment, or an intentional disturbance of animals during breeding, nesting, rearing of young, or other critical life history functions is illegal
  • Follow state wildlife and fish agency regulations on the use of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to search for or detect wildlife and fish. 
  • It is illegal to launch the UAS more than 100 meters (328 feet) from wildlife. Do not approach animals or birds vertically with the UAS. 
  • Keep your UAS within your visual line of sight at all times
  • Take lessons and learn to operate your UAS safely.
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations.
  • Fly your UAS at least 5 miles from an airport or backcountry airstrip.
  • Keep your UAS away from populated and noise-sensitive areas, such as campgrounds, trail heads, and visitor centers.

“If we can prove they used a drone to locate wildlife and then killed it, it would be an illegal possession of that animal,” Dugan said. “That could be a fine of up to $125,000. It just depends on the circumstances and range of what they’re doing.”

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