EDITORIAL: A good deed not punished

York Dispatch Editorial Board
John Stoll Jr. of Wellsville watches a whitetail deer swim to shore after it, along with several others, fell through the ice at Gifford Pinchot State Park, Saturday, January 11, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The Pennsylvania Game Commission made the right call over the weekend when it decided not to fine a Wellsville man who took it upon himself to nurse a rescued deer.

John Stoll Jr. said game commission representatives came to his home Saturday, Jan. 26, to issue a warning against taking in any more wildlife, backtracking from an earlier visit in which they told him to expect a citation.

Stoll helped with rescue efforts Jan. 12 after four deer fell through the ice on Pinchot Lake at Gifford Pinchot State Park.

The young buck he took home had been in the water for several hours before the rescue, and Stoll said he didn't want to leave him to die. He loaded up the buck and brought him to his garage, where he tried to keep the animal warm and nurse him back to health.

It died about 12 hours later, and he buried it in his yard that Sunday, said Stoll, who had been making social media posts about his efforts.

The next day a state game warden visited Stoll’s home and told him he faced a citation and fine of up to $200.

Stoll called the situation “unreal,” noting he was simply trying to do a good deed.

He’s right — but so is the game commission.

More:No citation — just a warning — for Wellsville man who took home rescued deer

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

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

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

In a news release later that week, Matthew Schnupp, the commission's wildlife management director, noted it’s illegal to take or possess wildlife in Pennsylvania — and said those who try to help animals that appear in distress would be making the situation worse.

"The whole process of taking them in really stresses them out and … often causes them to die," said Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau, adding only a licensed wildlife rehabilitator would be allowed to care for an injured animal.

Understood, but we’re still glad to see Stoll’s well-intended deed go unpunished.

Both the deer rescue and Stoll’s ensuing trouble with the game commission were well-publicized — and probably did more to spread the word about Pennsylvania’s wildlife laws than any citation alone would have done.

Of course, that assumes everyone who hears the story gets the message.

And that’s not a given in Stoll’s case.

"It’s been a ride, but you know, if it would happen again tomorrow, I’d do it all over again," he said after receiving his warning. "I would have to do it again. I couldn’t let another deer lay there and die."

Actually, if there is a next time, we hope he — or anyone else in that position — lets the professionals handle the injured animals.

We doubt there will be a second warning.