Prosecutors said that Jeffrey Scott Hawn, chief executive of Seattle-based Attachmate Corp., orchestrated an illegal hunt for bison that had wandered from an adjoining ranch onto land he owns in Colorado.

DENVER — The buffalo do not roam much these days. But even as they have become increasingly used as ranch animals, raised and slaughtered for their meat, their place in the emotional hierarchy of Western values remains firm.

Ask Jeffrey Scott Hawn.

Prosecutors said that Hawn, chief executive of Seattle-based Attachmate Corp., orchestrated an illegal hunt for bison that had wandered from an adjoining ranch onto land he owns in Colorado. Thirty-two of them were shot dead.

Monday, Hawn pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and one count of cruelty to animals and agreed to pay $157,000 in fines and restitution, including $70,000 in donations to animal-welfare groups.

Deep snows in Colorado’s high-mountain pastures last winter made it easier for the animals to wander onto Hawn’s property — or perhaps compelled them there in a search for food.

A deputy district attorney for Colorado’s 11th Judicial District, Thom LeDoux, said the animal-cruelty charge had less to do with how the bison were killed than the fact that they were not used for food.

“The way the statute reads, it’s the needless killing of an animal,” LeDoux said.