“There are so many violations here,” remarks State Game Warden Michael Stutts of Eerie County. Stutts is leading the charge in processing five local juveniles after the discovery of what officials describe as a “major poaching ring.”
The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced the case this week after locating a number of teens responsible for poaching some 14 deer were caught and apprehended. The juveniles, spanning Eerie and Crawford Counties, will face severe hunting violation charges that could amount to almost $100,000 in fines.
PGC clarifies in their Thursday press release that the deer poaching took place over the fall season of 2020. The identities of the poachers, as well as their ratios across multiple Pennsylvania counties, is undisclosable while the case processes through state courts.
PA Juveniles Likely Poached “For Fun”
In total, 11 “full or partial” deer carcasses have come forth as part of the case. Remains in both southern Eerie County and northern Crawford County are part of the proceedings, indicating the aggressive scope of operation. In nearly all cases, “meat from the deer is very rarely taken and only occasionally are the antlers taken, indicating the animals were likely killed for fun,” reports The Meadville Tribune.
“The theme we keep coming back to is these deer are being killed for almost thrill-kill-type situations,” says Jason R. Amory, an information and education supervisor with the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northwest Region.
Armory adds that the juveniles were allegedly driving around at night with loaded rifles. The poaching then took place from their moving vehicle, authorities suspect. The teens shot deer wherever they could find them. So far, two loaded rifles have been seized by the state.
“This has been an ongoing situation,” Armory clarifies of Pennsylvania’s poaching problem. “We have had probably three cases of groups of juveniles in Erie and Crawford County in the last couple of years.”
“Major Poaching Ring” Part of an Ongoing Pennsylvania Problem
To this end, Armory says he believes this case is related to a similar incident in March 2019. Within, a group of juveniles were also guilty of poaching local deer.
“There are some very specific similarities, and I can’t get into it, but there are some very specific similarities,” he continues. With the accused being of juvenile status, there is little more information able to revealed at this time. He does note, however, that juvenile poachers in the state may be communicating through popular social media app SnapChat.
So far, the charges against the minors include “143 citations with fines that, added together, reach a minimum of $48,800 and a maximum of $82,000. In addition, replacement costs often imposed in wildlife crimes could add $11,400 to the total, for a maximum possible $93,400,” The Meadville Tribune tallies.
State officials now await a final total alongside the charges. Once this is reached, the juveniles will then have to plead guilty or not guilty in court. If they plead not guilty, then the case moves to trial before jury.
Multiple “Summary Offences” Filed by PA State Game Warden
Ironically, all five juveniles identified so far have hunting licenses, Armory adds. Regardless, their illegal activity brings multiple charges in the form of summary offenses. Each is brought to by State Game Warden Michael Stutts of Erie County.
All five minors are set to have their Pennsylvania hunting license revoked in court. Armory, however, cannot state this for fact as of yet.
“Criminal offenses of this nature, this magnitude and this amount typically results in the revocation of the license. But I can’t say that for certain,” he adds as the poachers await trial.
Moreover, the revoking of each license will need to be on a person-by-person basis in court. Each will then be subject to revoking for a certain time period. Armory adds that this could – and should – be a lengthy period for those involved.
“There are so many violations here, it could be extensive,” he concludes.
Several local officers aided the poaching investigation, including those from the Overt Special Investigations Unit. Investigator Lawrence Hergenroeder, alongside K-9 officer Storm, were responsible for seizing evidence in the field, then investigating each juvenile accordingly.
The high-profile case comes days after multiple states acted on severe poaching incidents of their own. Idaho, in particular, is facing an ongoing string of heinous poachings. Ohio, too, faces a multitude of poaching cases.