More charges were filed last month against a Colorado hunting guide accused of participating in the illegal killing of at least 12 cougars around Zion National Park.

The case against Samuel R. Sickels, 32, of Naturita, Colo., has grown into one of the biggest Utah poaching investigations involving a hunting guide, officials say."I've never investigated a case with more charges," said Utah Division of Wildlife Resources investigator Douglas Messerly.

Officers also are investigating poaching cases against Sickels and others in Colorado and northern New Mexico.

Sickels has been charged with 19 counts, including wanton destruction, commercialization and unlawful taking of protected wildlife, and obtaining hunting licenses through fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. All are class A or B misdemeanors.

A dozen charges were filed Jan. 26 in Kane, Iron and Washington counties and seven more were filed Feb. 3. They stem from illegal hunts in January, February and December 1997 and January. Sickels has pleaded innocent in Iron County to seven counts of license violations and unlawfully taking protected wildlife, all class B misdemeanors.

The defendant was booked into Washington County Jail in St. George last month and released on $17,500 bail. Officials say he is living in Cedar City.

Investigators say Sickels would obtain licenses to hunt in one area, then kill the cougars in another. He also allegedly obtained Colorado hunting licenses but killed the animals in Utah.

Sickels also is accused of saying he lived in Utah to get a less-expensive resident license.