Pennsylvania law enforcement have charged six residents with hundreds of wildlife violations after they admitted to illegally shooting and killing between 100 and 200 deer in six months “just for fun,” according to Pennsylvania Game Commission officials. The “poaching spree” stretched from fall 2022 into winter 2023 and showed a “complete disregard for our wildlife resources.”
Three 20-year-olds from Greencastle and three unidentified juveniles were charged with poaching violations. The named suspects include Hunter Atherton, Abigale Hoover, and Caillou Patterson, who also face state charges for the corruption of juveniles. Atherton was additionally accused of recklessly endangering the welfare of others.
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The six suspects face a combined 486 charges, according to reporting from ABC 27 News.
Charges include the unlawful taking of game, possession of loaded guns in a vehicle, disregarding spotlighting restrictions, illegal use of lights while hunting, and the unlawful use of a vehicle for locating game. Some of the charges could result in penalties of up to three years in jail, plus a $15,000 fine. Wildlife restitution charges are also on the table, which are associated over $20,000.
PGC first received tips related to this case in September, when Franklin County residents began finding dead deer in their fields and yards. In Mercersburg, witnesses reported poachers spotlighting deer at night, hearing gunshots, and dead deer. A witness gave a description of a poaching vehicle to PGC, though no license plate number was recorded.
While on patrol after midnight in early January, state game warden Philip Bietsch spotted a vehicle at a gas station that matched the description of the vehicle reported by the witness from Mercersburg.
Bietsch drove to a road where deer had previously been poached and waited. He heard gunshots, then watched as the vehicle he’d noticed at the gas station approached. Its occupants were operating a spotlight.
Bietsch stopped the vehicle, which contained one adult and two minors inside. They possessed a loaded rifle and admitted to shooting three deer. In his investigation, Bietsch collected evidence of 26 poached deer, plus seven “attempts.”
The apprehended poachers subsequently reported to the PGC that two other adults and another juvenile had been poaching deer, too. According to Fox 43, most of the meat was not salvaged by the suspects, who left the deer to rot.
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