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'Unreal': Wellsville man faces citation for taking rescued deer

A Wellsville man who took a rescued deer home to nurse it back to health over the weekend said he is facing a citation from the state Game Commission for his actions.

John Stoll Jr. told The York Dispatch Tuesday, Jan. 15, that he had been informed a game warden planned to cite him for taking the deer after it was rescued from ice at Gifford Pinchot State Park on Saturday, Jan. 12.

“I just don’t understand it. If the game commission had a problem with me taking it, why weren’t they at my house Saturday night?" Stoll asked.

Stoll said he put the deer in his truck after it was pulled from Pinchot Lake and took it to his home about two miles away. He and his wife kept the deer in his garage and tried to nurse it back to life, but it died about 12 hours later, he said.

“I’m just really disappointed he didn’t survive,” Stoll said.

It wasn't until Monday, Jan. 14, that a state game warden told Stoll he would be facing a citation with a possibility of a $100 to $200 fine.

‘That’s just unreal," he said.

More:Deer rescue under investigation; Pa. Game Commission warns others to leave wildlife alone

More:'Sad news': Despite rescuers' efforts, buck pulled from Gifford Pinchot lake dies

More:Deer rescued after falling through ice at Pinchot State Park

Park Manager Devin Buzard, left, and DCNR Ranger Wanda Pritulsky, right, make their way toward a deer that fell through the ice at Gifford Pinchot State Park, Saturday, January 11, 2019. Buzard and Pritulsky were able to drive the buck into an opening they created in the ice where it could swim to shore.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Deer rescue: Rescue personnel and park officials worked for several hours Saturday to help four deer that fell through the ice on the lake.

One deer died, and two others made it to shore when rescuers created a channel through the ice for them. The last deer, rescued after about 3½ hours, was taken by Stoll, he said.

Stoll said he and two game wardens were on one side of the lake when rescuers saved the deer. The rescuers brought the deer to the opposite side of the lake, and Stoll met them there, where he took the deer and put it in his truck, Stoll said.

He said he took the deer before the game wardens got around to that side of the lake.

“I don't even know how far they made it before I actually got the deer,” he said.

The game wardens were going to either euthanize or leave the deer there, according to Stoll. 

“I said 'Why did we even spend the effort to get him out?'” he said.

Stoll said he buried the deer in his yard after it died on Sunday.

Stoll and his wife had been posting about the rescue on Facebook Live throughout the weekend. He said news of the rescue got to some people in Virginia and even Florida.

But Stoll said he wasn't looking for publicity.

“I just tried to do a good deed," he said.

A buck rescued from ice  rests in John Stoll's Wellsville garage Saturday, Jan. 12. Photo courtesy of Terri Stoll.

Citation: On Monday, a game warden visited Stoll's home and spoke to his stepson because Stoll wasn't there. Stoll said the game warden was asking his stepson questions.

Stoll said the game warden later called him and told him he had to cite him.

“He said it’s unlawfully taking wild game from the wildlife and taking him home," Stoll said.

He said he doesn't have anything against the two game wardens who were at the rescue Saturday.

“I said, 'You know what, you two game wardens were the best game wardens I’ve ever worked with,'" Stoll said.

But after the call he received Monday, he doesn't plan on helping the game commission any time soon.

“I said I will never do nothing for the game commission ever again," Stoll recalled telling the game warden Monday.

The warden told him the citation would likely result in a fine of between $100 to $200, according to Stoll, who said he plans to fight the citation.

Online court records do no show a citation being filed as of Tuesday.

Wildlife is protected: Pennsylvania Game Commission Press Secretary Travis Lau on Tuesday said he has been unable to speak with the warden investigating Stoll and therefore had no specifics about the case to share.

However, Lau was able to speak generally about why Stoll could be cited.

"All wildlife in Pennsylvania is protected — no one owns it," he said. "In the case of injured animals, they only ever go to licensed wildlife rehabilitators."

Lau said sometimes well-meaning good Samaritans can do more harm than good.

"Oftentimes when folks try to intervene and help injured wildlife, it can have a reverse effect, with deer in particular," he said. "The whole process of taking them in really stresses them out and … often causes them to die."

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser. Senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo contributed to this report.