Contact(s): George Protogere, Warden Team Supervisor, Green Bay: 920-662-5157 Byron Goetsch, Regional Warden, Green Bay: 920-662-5128
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Thanks to an anonymous tip, a competition to illegally kill raccoons and deer allegedly involving 12 males from four counties was halted by Department of Natural Resources wardens during an investigation that resulted in cases announced today.
Allegations of illegally shooting and beating to death raccoons and intentionally striking deer with vehicles were filed by the Department of Natural Resources with local district attorneys in Brown and Manitowoc counties.
The suspects, between 16 and 19 years old, include: eight from Brown County; two from Calumet County, one from Outagamie County, and one from Manitowoc County. The Brown County filing includes 11 suspects from Brown, Outagamie and Calumet. The Manitowoc filing covers one suspect.
The names have not been released as charges are pending, and some suspects are minors.
Chief Warden Randy Stark said the behavior behind these allegations is of concern to Wisconsin citizens who care deeply about the state's wildlife. "It is a senseless waste of a natural resource and engaging in this behavior can endanger public safety," he said.
"It is important to note that it was a tip from a concerned citizen that launched this investigation and led to stopping this troubling competition," he said. "Preventing this type of behavior, and apprehending the responsible parties and bringing them to justice in a court of law for such violations are high priority."
DNR Conservation Warden Andy Lundin, who led the investigation in Brown County, said the tip came in at the end of October.
Based upon the public's information, Lundin and other wardens apprehended several suspects during an attempted but unsuccessful outing to illegally kill wildlife. "The actual contest had been a planned event for the next night. The event did not occur," he said. The contest called for participants to kill as many animals as possible - to keep a tally and to compare final scores.
The investigation expanded and evidence included information found on social networking.
"We learned through our investigations the raccoons that were killed were generally just left in fields or ditches" Lundin said, adding this activity had been occurring for at least two years.
Thrill kill is a popularized social term used to describe the illegal killing of wildlife by an individual motivated solely by the excitement of the act. It is not a legal term, but one used to describe behavior. In recent years, there have been several incidents characterized as thrill kill cases in Wisconsin.
"This type of senseless killing of wildlife is of great concern to both the hunters and those who do not hunt," Stark said. "This behavior has nothing to do with hunting, and everything to do with bad decisions."
DNR statistics show there were 20 cases characterized as thrill kills in 2005 and 17 cases in 2006. Most of the cases involved groups of two to five, and three of the cases involved at least 10.
Stark says there has been an increase in the number of animal killing cases involving groups of teenagers and young adults in the last five years.
In September 2009, 15 adults and juveniles were charged with pursuing, shining and killing wild animals with clubs and bats in Columbia and Dodge counties. The case was characterized as a thrill kill case because it involved the illegal chasing and clubbing of wild animals, often raccoons and opossums. Many of those involved in this case were convicted, paid substantial fines, and lost the ability to hold DNR licenses for up to three years.
"We're really fortunate to live in Wisconsin where we have abundant wildlife and citizens who care enough to call so we can stop this behavior," Stark said. "Just as the anonymous tip that was key to launch this investigation proved, everyone has a potential role in preventing and stopping this kind of behavior."
Anyone with information regarding DNR violations including suspected thrill kill instances may call 1-800-TIP-WDNR or text tips to TIPWDNR (space) to 847411(tip411).