Pennsylvania Deer Poachers Nabbed

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For three Maryland adults and a Pennsylvania juvenile apprehended over the past weekend by Pennsylvania Game Commission officers, the temptation to skirt the laws to get their deer early has resulted in fines that may total more than $4,000.

According to Fulton County District Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) Kevin Mountz, he and Deputy WCOs Robert Strait, Anthony Carbaugh and Ashley Ramsey were acting upon several citizens' complaints of finding deer carcasses with the heads removed. The four were apprehended while Game Commission officers were conducting surveillance in Thompson Township.

A vehicle driven by Jason Lee Gross, 27, of Clear Spring, Maryland, was stopped by officers for spotlighting after legal hours. During the stop, officers secured a .17 caliber rifle, a loaded magazine, a knife, two spotlights and additional live cartridges from the front seat of the car. Accompanying Gross was Harvey Samuel Benedict IV, 34, and Lloyd Patrick Macereth, 33, both of Hagerstown, Maryland; and an unnamed 15-year-old youth from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.

Further inspection of the exterior of the vehicle produced dried hair and blood that led to a confession by Gross that he and Benedict illegally killed a deer several days earlier. Maryland Natural Resources Police were contacted to assist with the investigation and, at 3:30 a.m., a search of a shed in Clear Spring produced a set of antlers from the illegal deer. The deer was shot in Pennsylvania and transported across state lines where the antlers were removed and the entire carcass discarded along the roadside.

All four are charged with spotlighting while in possession of a firearm. Both Gross and Benedict face charges of unlawful possession of a deer taken in a closed season. In addition to penalties in Pennsylvania, Maryland DNR is conducting an investigation and is expected to file additional charges.

WCO Mountz thanked the citizens who stepped forward with the information.

"People do not support illegal killing of wildlife," Mountz said. "While legal hunting enjoys a huge support base in Pennsylvania, there is increasingly less patience for those who won't follow the rules. My Deputy WCOs and I are a team with our residents."

Created in 1895 as an independent state agency, the Game Commission is responsible for conserving and managing all wild birds and mammals in the Commonwealth, establishing hunting seasons and bag limits, enforcing hunting and trapping laws, and managing habitat on the 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands it has purchased over the years with hunting and furtaking license dollars to safeguard wildlife habitat. The agency also conducts numerous wildlife conservation programs for schools, civic organizations and sportsmen's clubs.

The Game Commission does not receive any general state taxpayer dollars for its annual operating budget. The agency is funded by license sales revenues; the state's share of the federal Pittman-Robertson program, which is an excise tax collected through the sale of sporting arms and ammunition; and monies from the sale of oil, gas, coal, timber and minerals derived from State Game Lands.