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

The Pennsylvania Game Commission said officials are still investigating after a Wellsville man took a rescued deer to his home in an attempt to nurture it back to health. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, John Stoll Jr. said he was informed he was going to be cited for taking the deer after its rescue at Gifford Pinchot State Park on Saturday, Jan. 12.

On Friday, Jan. 18, the game commission said in a news release that no charges have been filed yet.

“I don’t know what more they’re investigating," Stoll said when reached Friday morning. He said he was hopeful the game commission would reconsider the citation.

“If they think it’s a violation, I’m almost sure they’ll still follow up with it," he said.

The game commission said that officials on scene did not know where the deer was until pictures of it appeared on social media that night. The deer died early Sunday morning, Jan. 13, according to Stoll.

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Response: The game commission said that under state law, it is illegal to take or possess wildlife. 

Matthew Schnupp, the commissions' wildlife management director, said in the release that those who want to help wildlife that appear to be in trouble would make the situation worse should they intervene.

The animal would be put under "significant stress," according to Schnupp, who said leaving an animal alone is the best, most caring thing someone can do.

Stoll has said that game commission officials were planning on leaving the rescued deer or euthanizing it.

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

Stoll took the deer to his home and kept it in his garage in an attempt to nurse it back to health. The deer died about 12 hours later.

Two whitetail buck struggle after falling through the ice at Gifford Pinchot State Park, Saturday, January 11, 2019. With the help of park officials, who broke up the ice, the two deer eventually made it to shore.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Rescue and citation: 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 the deer died Sunday, he buried it in his backyard, and he wasn't contacted by the game commission until Monday, Jan. 14.

“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 had said.

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

A game warden talked to him and informed him he had to fine him for taking the wildlife, he said. Stoll said he was told he was going to get a $100 to $200 fine. He plans on fighting the citation.

As of Friday morning, online court records do not show any citation filed for Stoll.

Stoll's situation was documented on Facebook Live and local news. He said people from all over found out his story.

"I didn't do it for the fame or anything. I did it to save the animal," Stoll said.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.