Three alleged incidents of cruelty to wildlife are troubling.
One occurred in Ohio and the others in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Two of the alleged violations have yet to be settled while part of the the third was settled out of court.
The alleged violation in Ohio occurred on Lake Erie on the last day of March and involves a commercial fishing business.
Szuch Fishery is scheduled to appear in Oregon Municipal Court in early July on charges of one count of causing intentional injury to a non-commercial fish species, 10 counts of stream littering and 10 counts of disposing of dead fish.
According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW), investigators from its agency observed and recorded Szuch employees intentionally injure a rare trophy-sized muskellunge after it was removed from a commercial fishing net in western Lake Erie. The wildlife agency also said employees were also observed removing numerous gar, a native fish important to the ecosystem, from commercial fishing nets and then breaking their spines and tossing the carcasses into the lake.
“This type of behavior is unexpected and unacceptable,” said Matt Leibengood, law enforcement supervisor for the DOW’s Lake Erie Enforcement unit.
The DOW said Szuch Fishery, if convicted, faces maximum penalties of $55,000 and a 30-day suspension of its ability to fish with commercial gear and to handle commercial fish or other fish at wholesale. The individuals face a maximum penalty of $750 and 90 days of incarceration.
The incident in Michigan involves an Upper Peninsula man. Kurt Johnston Duncan was cited for 125 wildlife misdemeanor charges including illegally harvesting 18 wolves and killing three bald eagles. Both species are protected under Michigan and federal law.
According to the Michigan DNR, other suspects were identified by conservation law enforcement officers and are expected to be charged in the near future.
In addition to the wolves and bald eagle charges, Duncan also was charged with deer, turkey, bear and bobcat violations. According to a MDNR press release, he used the animals for a variety of reasons, including crafts, selling, or disposing of them, and stated that he was catching the animals because he could and “likes to do it.”
The Chippewa County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is seeking $30,000 in restitution to the state for the illegally taken animals. Duncan pleaded not guilty to all charges.
He faces: up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine for each wolf; up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine for each eagle; restitution of $1,500 per eagle and $500 per wolf and up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine each for the other wildlife crimes.
The incident in Pennsylvania drew plenty of public ire.
A pair of teenagers hunting together in a treestand were charged with animal cruelty and other counts after they posted a video of them kicking a wounded buck in the face, ripping off its antlers and then stepping on its throat. One of them had shot the deer, but did not kill it. On the video, the pair are heard laughing. They also ask each other if the deer is still alive.
One (Alexander Smith) was charged as an adult and his case was adjudicated while the other, charged as a juvenile, is still awaiting his case to be prosecuted.
Chip Brunst, information and education supervisor for the Northwest Region of Pennsylvania, said someone had posted the video to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Facebook page, which initiated the investigation and raised public outrage.
Bryan Burhans, executive director of the game commission, said after charges were filed the posts about the incident on the agency’s Facebook page have made clear the contempt hunters hold for the actions depicted on the video.
“Hunters care deeply about wildlife,” Burhans said in a game commission press release. “It’s through their decades of dedication to the outdoors that we enjoy healthy and sustainable populations of wild birds and mammals, and that those wildlife species that encounter trouble are identified and afforded additional protection.
“Hunters are taught at an early age to hunt ethically, to be respectful of the game they hunt, the property upon which they hunt and other hunters,” Burhans said. “The game commission’s hunter-trapper education program emphasizes these longstanding principles to new hunters.”
Smith had the felonies against him dropped during the plea deal in Jefferson County. He received probation, but was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. Brunst said those hours will be spent at an animal shelter. Smith also lost his hunting privileges for 15 years.
Smith also was ordered to speak to hunter safety courses. Brunst said there was public backlash on that with people thinking a person committing such a violation should not be speaking to such classes. Currently, no such classes are being held by the game commission.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL