ADAMS COUNTIAN GUILTY OF USING ATV TO CHASE DEER
HUNTINGDON - In an act called by one Pennsylvania Game Commission official as "something no one with a conscience could endorse," a McSherrystown resident pled guilty to charges for using an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to chase a deer to the point of exhaustion and then killing it. Adams County Wildlife Conservation Officer Darren J. David filed the charges.
On Aug. 31, Marshall C. Mixell, 30, pled guilty to unlawful taking and possession of a white-tailed deer before District Judge Daniel Bowman, Bonneauville, and was fined $800. In addition, Mixell is subject to loss of hunting privileges for at least one year.
WCO David was notified by the county dispatch center when an alert citizen reported that a dead deer was being transported on an ATV that was traveling through a farmer's crop fields. The defendant, Mixell, was located with the deer at his friend's home in Conewago Township. He claimed the deer was found after it injured itself crossing a fence and that he killed and removed it as an act of mercy and out of courtesy to the local farmer. However, according to David, the details provided to support Mixell's story of how he got the deer "weren't adding up."
Backtracking on tire marks left by an ATV from the acquaintance's home to a neighboring farm, David was able to determine that Mixell first encountered the deer in open fields and gave chase with his vehicle. By the time the deer had tried to escape over a nearby fence, it was apparently too exhausted to leap the fence that, according to David, was "only about two feet high."
Mixell then went back to the friend's house to retrieve a knife, returned and approached the deer to stab it to death before taking it to the house.
WCO David said that recent high temperatures were probably a contributing factor to the deer's death.
"Most know how hard winter is on wildlife, but heat-induced stress can be just as deadly," David said. "With the hot and humid weather we've been experiencing in Pennsylvania, it wouldn't take much to chase a deer with a vehicle to the point where it could no longer negotiate minor obstacles."
As estimated damages to crops was less than $100, those farmers impacted by the incident told WCO David that they did not wish to pursue additional charges as long as the defendant was charged for the deer.
GAME LAW VIOLATIONS LEAD OFFICERS TO OTHER CRIMINAL ACTIVITY
DALLAS- Pennsylvania Game Commission officials announced that a Pocono Pines resident has been arrested for his alleged involvement in a game law violation and other criminal activity in the Monroe County area.
Jason Horton, 20, was charged with allegedly shooting at or interfering with an active osprey nest. Horton also faces criminal charges for the unlawful possession of a firearm, selling or transferring a firearm to a minor, burglary, criminal trespass and criminal conspiracy. He was arraigned before District Judge Richard Claypool, Pocono Pines, on Aug. 11, and currently is being held in the Monroe County Correctional Facility awaiting trail.
Charges against three juveniles who were with Horton, are pending at this time.
The incident occurred on July 31, in the Forest Glen Development of Pocono Pines. A witness, who is an avid hunter, called the Game Commission Northeast Region in Dallas, after he observed four individuals shooting at or into an active osprey nest, with what he described as a high-powered rifle. At the time of the shooting the nest contained two adult birds along with two juvenile fledglings.
"The caller was able to provide accurate information on the vehicle and its license plate, along with a pretty good description of the four individuals involved," stated Pete Sussenbach, Monroe County Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO). "Without this information, this violation most likely would have gone unsolved."
Arriving at the nest site, WCO Sussenbach began a search of the area and found spent shell casings from two separate calibers of firearms. Fortunately, no osprey was found dead or injured, however the birds where nowhere to be found.
While WCO Sussenbach was conducting his search of the area for any other clues, Game Commission Dispatcher Diane Grimes was working on determining the owner of the vehicle. As it turned out, the vehicle's owner was a New Jersey resident who also had a local residence within the Pocono Pines community.
WCO Sussenbach, along with officers from Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department, went to the residence and found one of the suspects home. This individual, a 17-year-old male, confessed his role in firing several shots into the osprey nest. He also provided the names of the other individuals, including Horton, who, when interviewed, also admitted to firing at or into the nest. The two other suspects, both juveniles, were located, and gave full confessions to their role in the shooting. Officers were able to secure two firearms -- a .270-caliber bolt-action rifle and 30/30-caliber lever action rifle -- believed used in the violation.
As the investigation began to unfold, it was determined that both firearms seized were stolen from a local residence in a reported burglary that occurred a week earlier. Evidence gathered by Pocono Mountain Police Detective Steven Mertz from this and several other recent home burglaries in the immediate area indicate a connection with some of these individuals.
"Fortunately, none of the birds was killed or injured," stated WCO Sussenbach. "They all returned to the nest area within a few days of the incident. I'll never understand why some people do something like this."
Ospreys, also known as "fish hawks," are large eagle-like hawks. They are primarily fish-eaters and, in areas of good habitat, can be seen diving from the sky into the water to catch prey. They currently are listed as a "threatened species" in Pennsylvania, but in recent years they have made considerable progress on the road to recovery. Their population, like other birds of prey, was devastated by the widespread use of the now-banned pesticide DDT.
The Game Commission, in cooperation with East Stroudsburg University, Wild Resources Conservation Fund and local Audubon Society chapters, worked to restore ospreys to the Commonwealth in the early 1980s through a pioneering hacking program, similar to the one used to fuel Pennsylvania's bald eagle recovery.
The first Pennsylvania-hacked osprey returned in 1983, and two years later the state documented its first nesting pair since 1910. Additional reintroduction efforts were sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Tioga-Hammond Dams, and by the Morraine Preservation Fund in Butler County. Ospreys were down-listed from endangered to threatened in 1998 in response to the success for these programs. Today, more than 50 pairs of ospreys are nesting in the state.
"Ospreys still are a fragile species in our Commonwealth," said WCO Sussenbach. "They have made a remarkable comeback, especially in the Pocono Mountain area, but there is still plenty of unoccupied habitat waiting for ospreys to use. Until they move into these areas, we'll continue to consider these birds a species of special concern."