Booby traps on game lands, exotic wildlife and more

Posted on: May 11, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Blog--Notes afieldSugar gliders are illegal to possess as pets in Pennsylvania.

So you want to be a fish or game “warden?”

Prepare to deal with inmates — or at least people who have been, likely will be or at least should be.

Conservation officers from Pennsylvania’s Game and Fish and Boat commissions regularly detail some of their activities in notes. A look at some of those reveals the lawbreakers they come across.

Some, well, perhaps they’re well-intentioned makers of bad decisions. Others appear to be truly bad people, or addicts, or just not overly bright.

Consider these cases:

= In Cumberland County, wildlife conservation officers are investigating a case of what appears to be a booby trap set up on a state game land with the intention of hurting people.

A hiker on game land 305 in South Middleton Township recently came across a piece of wood with exposed screws through it on a trail. The board was hidden on the path with the points facing up.

According to the Game Commission, it “appears to have been placed there intentionally and with the intent to cause harm to people, animals, or equipment that came in contact with it.”

An investigation – that includes looking for other traps – is underway.

“The placing of a device like this is a crime and those responsible will be prosecuted,” a commission news release reads.

= In Westmoreland County, Game Commission officer Matt Lucas cited two people in Trafford recently for possessing sugar gliders.

Not sure what they are?

Sugar gliders are marsupials, related to kangaroos and koala bears, that look like flying squirrels because of the membrane between their wrists and ankles. That allows them to glide between trees in their native Australia and Indonesia.

They’re sometimes sold as pets in the United States, but they’re illegal to possess here.

Likewise, in Allegheny County, officer Doug Bergman is conducting an investigation regarding a Pittsburgh-area man who imported a wolf without the proper permits.

= In Allegheny County, one lawbreaker covered all the bases.

Fish and Boat Commission conservation officer Mike Walsh heard of an individual who had driven across a landowner’s property, which was posted, without permission. He then proceeded to fish in Bull Creek, a stocked trout water.

This was nearly three weeks before trout season opened.

Walsh found the guy and, in the course of his investigation, determined that he’d never purchased a trout stamp, had trout in his possession, field dressed and removed the heads and tails of the trout, littered and lied about it all.

Charges have been filed.

= In Indiana County, Game Commission officer Chris Reidmiller cited an individual who shot a deer in the parking lot of his workplace. Why? The individual said the deer was acting strangely, although he didn’t report that to the commission before or after pulling the trigger.

= Talk about your guilty conscience.

In Lycoming County, two Fish and Boat Commission officers, Anthony Beers and David Raulfs Jr. were working a litter investigation at a camp along Little Pine Creek. They visited the site, left to find cell service, then went back.

When they arrived the second time, they found the owner’s 25-year-old nephew.

They started asking the man about the littering. He got very upset.

And then?

Unprompted, he confessed not to the littering, but to having been involved in a series of camp burglaries in the area. The man and two accomplices had broken into unoccupied camps and stolen firearms, hunting and fishing gear, alcohol and other valuables, then stored them in his aunt’s camp.

State police are now prosecuting the case.

= In Armstrong County, Game Commission officer Rod Burns reports several odd cases.

In one, he prosecuted a man who shot a bear on the first morning of bear season. The problem was, he killed it at 5:15 a.m. – nearly two hours before legal shooting time – in the headlights of his vehicle. Its cub was nearby, caught in a foot-hold trap meant for coyotes. He told officers he felt bad for it, so he killed it, too.

In another, a fellow killed a bear, claiming self defense. Unfortunately for him, Burns found the crossbow bolt he’d used to kill it – when it was still 43 feet away from his tree stand and standing broadside.

Finally, on patrol in the firearms deer season Burns saw a man dressed in orange and carrying a rifle run away from him. Officers caught him. It turns out, the reasons he was running were that he was hunting even though his license was revoked, and while under the influence of alcohol.

= Then there are the drugs.

Fish and Boat officers Mike Johnson and Tyler Soety came across three women in Riverfront Park in Pittsburgh smoking marijuana. A day later, they found two more, both underage, drinking beer and smoking marijuana in the woods along Peter’s Creek in South Park Township.

All received citations.

Officer Matt Kauffman, meanwhile, came across two people using – or trying to use — heroin in the parking lot at Greenlick Lake in Fayette County. The woman in the car was tightening a hair band around her arm and the man was holding multiple syringes when Kauffman approached.

The man, who was driving, initially started the car and put it into gear when Kauffman approached, though he gave up when ordered to. Bother were taken into custody by state police.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.