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    Deer slaying update

    Posted by AmSnow
    on Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Meeting to discuss possible trail closings in Wisconsin

    The Waupaca County Snowmobile Association will meet tonight to wrestle with the question of closing area trails after a deer slaughter that left many unanswered questions, according to Bob Sprenger, president of the Waupaca County Snowmobile Association. 

    The meeting will take place at 8 p.m.Tuesday at Mike and Cindy's Tavern in Manawa, Wis.

    Virginia Niemuth, who opened the trail on her Waupaca County property in the late 1960s, said her neighbor awoke Saturday to a deer limping in the deep snow. The deer was on Niemuth's property. The neighbor went to investigate and noticed snowmobile tracks on its hip. Authorities later found 4 other dead deer on her property.

    "It was so cruel," Niemuth said.

    Carl Mesman, DNR conservation warden supervisor, said snowmobilers apparently chased the deer off an adjacent private trail and rounded them up and hit them with their snowmobiles. All of the deer had several broken legs.

    One deer had been towed by its' neck with a snowmobile to a tree where it was tied up. The deer eventually strangled itself as it struggled to escape the tree and a rope that was wrapped around its neck, Mesman said.

    A snowmobile had been placed on top of one deer and the track spun, causing the abdominal cavity to be opened. Niemuth said it looked like the deer killers had "skinned" the deer with their snowmobiles.

    The deer that was originally found limping was euthanized because of its extensive injuries, Mesman said.

    John Anderson, trail coordinator for the County Line Trail Blazers, said there were 14 inches of snow on the ground with a sheet of ice on top of it. This created a place for the snowmobilers to glide across, but the deer were unable to run across the crust, making them easy targets.

    So far little is known about the snowmobilers.

    A general belief in the area is that the riders were young local boys who were intoxicated and on older sleds, Anderson said. He noted the type of tracks left behind led to the older sled theory.

    "People who are touring through wouldn't know how far away properties were," Anderson said, leading authorities to believe local riders were involved.

    Capt. Don Conat, part of Waupaca County's Sheriff's Department's joint investigation with the DNR, said it was likely that the assailants were local riders, but could not elaborate.

    Conat said the original timeline of 1 to 3 am on Saturday has now changed to Friday night between 7 and 9:30 pm.

    Snowmobilers had seen a wounded deer with snowmobile tracks on it Friday night and caused investigators to reconsider a dairy farmer's story of the event happening around 3:30 a.m., Conat said.

    The snowmobilers on the scene Saturday morning now have been ruled out as suspects, Conat said.

    In addition, the local snowmobile club has been riding around looking at parked sleds for damage, Anderson said.

    Conat said there are no leads yet surrounding damaged sleds.

    Meanwhile, Sprenger said the incident has affected the local community in many ways.

    "This is an incident that has never before happened," Sprenger said.

    Niemuth, a veteran snowmobiler, decided to close her part of the trail until the perpetrators have been caught. "I can't tolerate this on my land," she said.

    Niemuth and some other landowners have requested all trails be closed until the riders are caught, Anderson said.

    He said closing the trails would financially hurt their club because of the inability to collect grooming fees from the state, but at the same time he wants to be respectful of the landowners.

    "We are caught between a rock and a hard place," Anderson said.

    Sprenger said he believed the reward money (now about $15,000) would be the best line of defense, and the closing of trails would put undue burden on the snowmobile clubs and county businesses.

    "This could put some clubs in dire (financial) straits," Sprenger said.

    Mesman said he didn't see the potential for copy cat violence.

    "(Closing the trails) would only penalize thousands of people for acts of three," Mesman said.

    Mesman said he was convinced the act would be successfully investigated soon, and  would allow Niemuth's portion of the trail to reopen.

    Conat said he had mixed feelings on closing the trails. "I would hate to see the businesses suffer, but I'm seeing comments posted on the internet that it would put pressure on the individuals," Conat said.

     Read what Mark Savage's, AmSnow's editor, response to these events here











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