Following a six-month investigation by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, five residents of Maine - four adults and a 17-year-old juvenile - were charged with more than 250 counts of violating the Game and Wildlife Code and the Crimes Code in the one of the largest wildlife crime sprees ever detected in the Commonwealth's history.

The group is charged with multiple counts of killing deer at night with a light, killing deer in closed season and killing deer in excess of season bag limits in Armenia Township and surrounding municipalities, Bradford County. During the months of October and December, the group is accused of killing dozens of deer unlawfully, including three large-racked bucks, during the state's early muzzleloader season and regular firearms deer seasons. The group also has been charged with numerous wildlife crimes in Maine.

"This investigation is a prime example of why it was so critically important for the General Assembly to have enacted legislation to increase the fines and penalties for chronic poachers last year," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director.

"The increased fines and penalties addressed the exact type of violations allegedly committed by these individuals, which involved killing multiple deer out of season, at night with spotlights and significantly over the bag limits."

In late 2010, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Bureau of Warden Service contacted the Game Commission with information that Everett Tyler Leonard and E.H. "Lenny" Leonard were suspected of killing a large number of deer over the legal limit in both Pennsylvania and Maine.

A joint investigation between the Game Commission and the Maine Warden Service was initiated and continued throughout the deer hunting seasons in both states. Game Commission Special Operations Division investigators conducted surveillance on the group's illegal hunting activities in Pennsylvania during the white-tailed deer hunting seasons.

"Good interagency communication and teamwork was what made the investigation a success," said Dan Scott, Captain of the Maine Warden Service. "It's been our experience that fish and wildlife violators know no jurisdictional boundaries, and this investigation once again proved that to be true. These individuals showed complete disregard for the wildlife laws of both Maine and Pennsylvania. By doing so, they were stealing opportunity and natural resources from the citizens of both states."

In January, a team of Game Commission investigators traveled to Maine to accompany Maine Warden Service investigators on the execution of five search warrants as a result of the investigation. During the execution of these warrants, investigators seized hundreds of pounds of deer meat, firearms, deer antlers, bows and arrows, spotlights, a mounted hawk and owls, a computer, documents and other hunting-related equipment.

The four adults charged in Pennsylvania were: Everett Tyler Leonard, 31, Everett H. (Lenny) Leonard, 59, and Carlton John Enos, 19, all of Turner, Maine; and Lucien H. Clavet, 44, of Monmouth, Maine. The 17-year-old juvenile, from Greene, Maine, will be charged with multiple summary violations involving the unlawful killing and attempting to kill deer both out of season and at night with a spotlight, using a motor vehicle to hunt and possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Special Operations Division Chief Thomas P. Grohol and Bradford County Wildlife Conservation Officer Vernon I. Perry III filed Pennsylvania's charges against the group before Magisterial District Judge Jonathan Wilcox of Troy, Bradford County on Feb. 23.

The law to increase fines and penalties for poaching was made possible by House Bill 1859, which was sponsored by House Game and Fisheries Committee Democrat Chairman Edward G. Staback. The bill was approved by the House on July 21, 2009, by a vote of 196-3. The Senate, after making minor adjustments to the bill, approved the measure unanimously on July 3, 2010, followed by a 189-6 concurrence vote in the House also on July 3. The bill was signed into law on July 9, making it Act 54 of 2010.

This article was submitted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.