ATHENS, OH (WCMH) — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced the conviction of 25 people, including 20 juveniles, in Muskingum County on deer poaching charges.
In a release the ODNR says the 25 people were convicted on 161 hunting-related charges spanning a two year period after they received complaints about white-tailed deer being illegally shot near Philo.
During a night project in 2014, a vehicle was observed spotlighting deer in a hay field. When state wildlife officers approached the vehicle, it fled the scene at a high rate of speed. Officers pursued the vehicle until it was deemed unsafe to continue.
The State Highway Patrol provided a lead in December 2015 when State Troopers pulled over an adult and four juveniles and discovered three dead deer in the vehicle. State wildlife officers and investigators followed up with the individuals and were able to determine that one of the juveniles had been a passenger in the vehicle that had fled the year before. Officers were also able to identify additional suspects and other violations. More suspects were identified through subsequent contacts and additional violation reports. The investigation eventually resulted in 25 individuals being issued summonses for more than 200 counts of wildlife violations.
The defendants were found guilty on 161 of those counts and ordered to pay $1,675 in fines and $3,991 in court costs, and complete a combined 440 hours of community service. Several items seized during the investigation were forfeited to the ODNR Division of Wildlife, including firearms, deer parts, and ginseng.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife says anyone observing or suspecting that wildlife violations are occurring can report illegal activity by calling the Turn-In-A-Poacher (TIP) hotline toll free at 1-800-POACHER (762-2437) or submitting information online at wildohio.gov. All information received by the TIP program will remain confidential.