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Planes help W.Va. DNR catch poachers

December 18, 1999

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Complaints by Eastern Panhandle residents of poachers illegally using spotlights to kill deer at night prompted the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources to use airplanes to spot the culprits, according to a department press release.

The tactic led to the arrest of several Panhandle residents, according to Col. Jim Fields, chief of the DNR's Law Enforcement Section. Fields, quoted in the release, said airplane use by DNR officers "has proven to be a highly effective tool in locating spotlights."

DNR planes flew over the Panhandle on four nights in November. Violations were found on the DuPont property off U.S. 11 north of Martinsburg and on Boyd Orchard Road, according to the release.

Charged were Rodney W. Conner, Stancy M. Cotta, Charles T. Allen and Tricia A. Litten, all of Martinsburg, William J., Barrett Jr. and Ronnie L. Purnell of Hedgesville, W.Va., and Phillip P. Valeo of Gerrardstown, W.Va. A juvenile was also cited, according to the release.

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Multiple charges were filed against the defendants, including spotlighting with a firearm, hunting from a motor vehicle, hunting without a license, hunting without permission, hunting during the closed season and hunting a half hour after sunset, the release said.

Spotlighting involves locating and blinding deer with a bright light, then shooting while the animal stands immobile. Conviction of the crime, a misdemeanor, can draw fines up to $500 and 100 days in jail.

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