A Maryland man has been handed $5,000 in fines and restitution costs, placed on 18 months probation, and banned from hunting on federal lands for shooting a mare on Assateague Island National Seashore.
The sentence was handed to Justin Eason, of Easton, Maryland, by U.S. Magistrate Victor Laws.
"I'm of the opinion that a fine alone is not enough to protect the public and our natural resources," the magistrate said when he sentenced the man on February 10.
The magistrate also sentenced the man's father, John Eason, to 12 months of supervised probation and ordered him to pay a fine of $1,000 for providing a false report to park rangers. Both were also must enroll and complete a hunter education and safety course as a condition of their probation.
The 28-year-old mare was shot and killed in January 2011 during a two-day deer hunt, according to seashore officials.
The bay mare carried the identification number 'N2BH.' During her lifetime, N2BH foaled six times, and had 11 2nd- and 3rd-generation offspring, according to seashore officials. In recent years she had been treated annually with contraceptives as part of a broader effort to maintain the size of the wild horse population at a sustainable level.
The two-day deer hunt was part of the seashore’s annual hunting program that includes several gun seasons during the fall and early winter. In addition to providing a unique and very popular recreational opportunity at the park system unit that touches parts of Virginia and Maryland, the hunting program is used to manage resident deer populations, according to seashore officials.
According to Chief Ranger Ted Morlock, the incident could have been avoided if Mr. Eason had followed one of the cardinal rules of firearm safety - always be 100 percent certain of your target before pulling the trigger. "He put everyone out there at risk and destroyed an iconic symbol of Assateague through his irresponsible behavior," the chief ranger said in a release from the seashore.
The ranger also noted that had the hunter and his father reported the violation immediately and "not lied about it numerous times, the penalties would have been much less severe."
Superintendent Trish Kicklighter was pleased to see the case resolved. "It's gratifying to see the court system take the protection of Assateague's resources and hunter safety so seriously," she said. "We're hopeful that the case will serve as an example and encourage others to be more careful."