Thru-Hiker Finds Dog Treats Stuffed with Fish Hooks Along the Appalachian Trail

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is asking the public for help identifying whoever recently stuffed dog treats with dozens of fish hooks and scattered them along the Appalachian Trail in Lehigh County. The laced treats were discovered by a group of unidentified thru-hikers as they hiked a section of the AT that runs through the heart of Pennsylvania State Game Lands #217.

“They discovered some of these dog treats along the trail and thought it was curious, picked them up, and noticed there had been fish hooks stuffed in the soft portion of the middle of the treats,”  PGC Southeast region information and education supervisor Dustin Stoner tells Outdoor Life. “They found a dozen to 15 treats, took some photographs and sent an email to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center … The staff noticed the email Monday morning, recognized it was a serious issue, and sent it on to the PGC.”

The hikers reportedly collected every treat they came across and PGC game wardens that were dispatched to the area did not find any treats or fish hooks. Officials walked all the trails and posted notices along the AT and at trail heads warning hikers and dog owners to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.

The contaminated marrow-style treats could injure and potentially kill any domestic or wild animal that consumed them. In addition to dogs, PGC is most concerned for the safety of bears and critters like possums, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes, as well as birds of prey. As of press time, the PGC had not received any reports of dead wildlife in the area or reports that any dogs or other domestic animals had eaten the spiked treats.

“We don’t really have any information that leads us to a suspect,” says Stoner. “We’re still working on it. We’re trying to see if we can determine who the person was who placed them there and hopefully find out maybe why. There is no legitimate reason for someone to do that. If we have evidence to prosecute, we certainly will. There are several violations under the game law that this person would have committed, and there could potentially be criminal charges as well.”

Those violations might include harassment of wildlife, placing foodstuffs on game lands, littering, and — in the event an animal is known to have died from ingesting the tainted treats — unlawful take of wildlife. The offense is somewhat unprecedented in the state and Stoner can’t remember anything “this egregious in recent history.”

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“We’ve had occasions where people have misused some kind of rodenticide where it killed or injured wildlife,” says Stoner. “I remember years and years ago receiving information that there were fish hooks stuck in trees [by someone who] may have been trying to catch coyotes. But no, this incident we’re dealing with now isn’t common.”

It may not be a common crime, but it isn’t unheard of to attempt to kill dogs with tainted treats. At least four dogs died after eating poisoned meatballs at a cross country race in a small town in rural France last year. Three dogs died within 15 minutes of exhibiting violent symptoms, prompting a search that turned up roughly 50 poisoned meatballs scattered in the parking lot, bushes, and side of the road.

“In this part of Pennsylvania [that section of the Appalachian Trail] is a relatively remote area,” says Stoner.  “However once the weather turns nice like it has been the past few weeks, it does receive a lot of traffic both local day hikers as well as thru-hikers.”

The treats were discovered along the North Trail Loop leading to the George W. Outerbridge Shelter, which is about a half-mile hike from the nearest road and the Lehigh River. Pennsylvania turkey season opened Saturday, though no hunting was permitted on Sunday due to the state’s enduring ban on most Sunday hunting. Turkey hunters, hikers, dog walkers, and anyone else who may have information that could lead investigators to identify a suspect should contact the PGC by calling 1-833-PGC-WILD or 1-833-PGC-HUNT. Anyone who discovers dog treats or other suspicious items should also call authorities immediately.

The post Thru-Hiker Finds Dog Treats Stuffed with Fish Hooks Along the Appalachian Trail appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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