COLORADO MAN STOCKED FISH IN NEW MEXICO FROM DISEASED HATCHERY
Dwight Babcock, 59, of Marvel, Colo., pleaded guilty Sept. 30 before U.S. Magistrate David West to seven federal misdemeanor counts of unlawfully importing fish, six counts of unlawfully transporting rainbow trout and grass carp from Colorado to New Mexico; and one count of unlawfully importing rainbow trout from Colorado to Utah. The guilty plea followed a joint investigation by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
According to court documents, Babcock illegally stocked trout and grass carp in private ponds in the Farmington area without the required importation permits. Eleven of those trout later tested positive for whirling disease, a very contagious affliction that causes deformities and neurological damage in fish. Babcock, owner and operator of Cannibal Canyon Ranches near Marvel, Colo., also admitted to importing fish into the Moab, Utah, area, and unlawfully stocking trout from his hatchery into public waters in Colorado on 125 occasions from 1997 to 2003. His hatchery tested positive for whirling disease in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2002.
“This is probably the largest case of its kind in New Mexico, and also the most serious,” said Bruce Mazuranich, assistant chief of law enforcement for the Department of Game and Fish. “This case illustrates the importance of our laws requiring importation permits to bring any wildlife into the state. We have to do everything we can to avoid bringing diseases or undesirable species into New Mexico.”
Babcock’s fines included $4,800 to the federal government, $15,000 restitution to the State of New Mexico, and $10,000 to the Whirling Disease Research Program at Colorado State University. He also is on probation for three years with the U.S. Justice Department, and agreed to never again transport or sell wildlife to New Mexico.