6 accused of killing over 100 deer in poaching spree in Pennsylvania

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. — Six people in Franklin County are facing charges in connection with a poaching spree that spanned six months and left more than 100 deer dead, according to officials.

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The Pennsylvania Game Commission said that Hunter Atherton, 20; Abigale Hoover, 20; and Caillou Patterson, 20; have been charged for their alleged involvement in a poaching spree from August 2022 to January 2023, according to WPXI. Three juveniles have also been charged.

The group is accused of shooting over 100 deer, most of which were left out to rot, the news outlet reported.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission said that starting in September, they received reports from residents about finding deer that appeared to have been shot dead in front of their homes and fields, according to WPXI.

A witness reported seeing a group using a spotlight on deer after hours, authorities said. The person said they heard a gunshot before seeing a deer drop to the ground. They were able to give investigators a description of the vehicle used by the group, WPXI reported.

Months later, on Jan. 3, a game warden spotted a vehicle matching the given description at a gas station. Warden Philip Bietsch went to an area where other deer had been killed in recent months and later heard several gunshots, officials said. A short while later, he saw the vehicle seen at the gas station traveling on the roadway. The people inside were operating a spotlight, the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Biestch stopped the vehicle and found an adult and two juveniles inside with a loaded .22 Magnum rifle, according to WPXI.

Investigators learned that there were two other adults and another juvenile involved in the alleged poaching. The group estimated that they had shot 100 to 200 deer “just for fun,” according to officials.

The six are facing a combined total of 113 counts of unlawful taking or killing of game or wildlife, 207 counts of unlawful use of lights while hunting, 42 counts of the possession of loaded firearms in a vehicle, 62 counts of restrictions on recreational spotlighting and 62 counts of unlawful use of a vehicle to locate game or wildlife, WPXI reported. Atherton, Hoover and Patterson are also facing corruption of minors charges. WPXI reported that Atherton was also charged with recklessly endangering the welfare of others.

The game commission said that the charges could possibly carry fines up to $15,000 and 36 months in prison. They also carry wildlife replacement costs just shy of $21,000.

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