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Juveniles suspected in major poaching case

Department of Natural Resources conservation wardens from three counties are continuing an investigation into “several groups of juveniles” who in recent weeks have allegedly shot dozens of deer and possibly a horse across Clark County. Charges may be forthcoming against multiple individuals from several communities by mid-December.

Robin Barnhardt, the DNR warden lieutenant from Black River Falls, said wardens from Clark, Eau Claire and Taylor counties are involved in an active investigation after receiving reports “on multiple deer that were shot and left in fields in Clark County.” Barnhardt confi rmed that several deer were shot in the Loyal area, and the total number of animals killed throughout the county may number as high as 25-30.

“We’re looking at several dozen deer here,” Barnhardt said. “It’s unfortunate.”

As the investigation continues, Barnhardt said wardens are trying to determine if the activity was tied together, or if the different groups were operating simultaneously but not as one larger group. The weeks during the whitetail deer rut and prior to the Nov. 21 gun season opener are usually the peak time of poaching activity, Barnhardt said, and it’s possible there is no connection. “This was basically spread all over Clark County,” he said. “There were several groups of juveniles identified from several different communities. Some of it was in the Loyal area.”

Wardens have been interviewing multiple subjects identified in the investigation, and will be preparing reports over the next few weeks to forward to the county district attorney for consideration of prosecution. Possible charges could include hunting deer at night with the use of a spotlight, hunting deer out of season, etc. There is also evidence that at least one horse was shot. If the subjects are adjudicated in adult court, the fines and other penalties could be significant.

Not only is the poaching activity unfortunate in the loss of resources, Barnhardt also said it presents a serious safety threat.

“Shooting at night is a risk to the public’s safety,” he said. “You never know when there’s a house tucked in the woods somewhere.”