Officials say group poached more than 17 deer
T'was the night before Thanksgiving when law enforcement officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) got a call about a situation that would turn out to be one of the worst cases of willful and wanton waste of wildlife they had ever seen.
Less than a month later, the State Attorney's Office for the Seventh Judicial Circuit in Flagler County agreed and charged five people, including two juveniles, with more than 50 criminal counts of wildlife law violations, most first-degree misdemeanors.
"This is the largest deer poaching case in Flagler County I've seen in my career with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission," said Capt. Gregg Eason, FWC area supervisor.
Near midnight on Nov. 26, FWC Officer Eric Meade responded to a call at John Campbell Drive off Highway 100 in Flagler County. The property owner had reported four recently shot deer piled up at a hunt camp on his property.
He found the dead deer a little earlier that evening after he and two of his employees had followed fresh tire tracks to the hunt camp. After they found the still-warm deer, he called 911 and drove out to the main road to wait for law enforcement. While they waited, they heard a shot coming from somewhere on the private property.
When FWC Officer Meade and Flagler County Deputy Doug Cottam arrived, they drove out to the hunt camp with the property owner and saw a pile of dead deer stacked up behind a truck, along with two males and a female standing together.
The two males, one a juvenile, said they had shot and killed seven deer on the property beginning at 9 that morning and ending well after dark. They used three different rifles and two spotlights to kill the five yearlings, one doe and one four-point buck that lay before the officers in a mangled pile of flesh and blood. All of the deer were killed illegally, because they were either shot at night with a gun and light or they were antlerless deer.
The suspects also told officers they shot at numerous other deer that night but didn't know how many or if they hit any of the others. And they told officers about other deer they had killed before that night and also outside the law.
Ultimately the two-week investigation which began the night before Thanksgiving, resulted in three additional males, including another juvenile, being charged with more than 50 wildlife law violations.
Below is a list of the adult defendants and the charges they are facing, and the charges against the juveniles.
Tracy G. Coates, 18, DOB 2/4/1990, 26 Lewisdale Lane, Palm Coast, is charged with unlawful taking of antlerless deer; taking deer at night with a gun and light; taking deer by an illegal method; willful and wanton waste of wildlife; contributing to the delinquency of a minor; and taking wildlife from a road right-of-way.
Dalton James Lanich, 18, DOB 6/2/1990, 563 County Road 200, Bunnell, is charged with taking deer at night with a gun and light; and willful and wanton waste of wildlife.
Dustin Sanders, 22, DOB 8/13/1986, 215 Main St., Espanola, is charged with unlawful taking of antlerless deer; taking deer at night with a gun and light; and taking wildlife from a road right-of-way.
In addition to the three adults, two juveniles from Bunnell, ages 17 and 15, were charged with several wildlife law violations including the unlawful taking of antlerless deer; taking deer at night with a gun and light; conspiracy; and willful and wanton waste of wildlife.
The charges all stem from illegal activity from November 2007 through November 2008.
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