WAUSAU, Wis. – A group of snowmobilers in central Wisconsin herded and killed four deer and severely injured a fifth in what a warden called a senseless act of cruelty on Monday.
No arrests have been made in the Saturday morning incident about five miles south of Waupaca, said Ted Dremel, a state Department of Natural Resources warden.
There's talk of closing all snowmobile trails in Waupaca County until the "rogue snowmobilers" are caught, he said.
"It is senseless. I don't know how else to describe it," Dremel said. "It is probably something they thought was fun or humorous at the time. They did purposely run over these deer. The tracks in the snow were in a circular manner, almost looking like they were chasing the deer back to other snowmobile partners."
Randy Yorkson, who farms the land, said people cannot believe what happened.
"I am going to guess it is somebody who left a bar. They probably had been using that trail before, knowing the deer were out there," he said. "This is just some yahoos who don't have any common sense."
Landowner Virginia Niemuth, 80, immediately shut off access to her property, closing five miles of the main snowmobile trail across Waupaca County.
"There's sick people out there," Niemuth said. "I used to love to snowmobile, but this is too much."
Dremel believes three or four snowmobiles were involved in a roundup of deer in a moonlit alfalfa field where 30 to 40 animals were known to feed. Witnesses reported hearing snowmobiles in the area about 3:30 a.m., he said.
Three deer were found dead in the field. A snowmobile stopped atop one and ripped open its stomach, Dremel said. A fourth deer with broken legs was euthanized.
The fifth deer was dragged from the field and tied to a tree about 25 feet from a road. Investigators think someone may have planned to return for that deer, Dremel said.
"It looked like the deer wrapped itself around the tree and choked itself to death," he said.
Dremel said he has never heard of this kind of "cowboy-style" attack on deer with snowmobiles.
"Usually, it is an accident — a deer standing in a trail and a snowmobiler can't avoid it," he said.
The dead deer included two bucks and three does. One was a fawn.
Investigators have no suspects. Some snowmobile clubs have offered $4,000 in rewards for information leading to arrests, Dremel said. Information can be phoned into the DNR's tip line at 1-800-TIP-WDNR.
"This is not characteristic of the snowmobile community in Wisconsin," DNR Chief Warden Randy Stark said in Madison. "Obviously, we are looking to get any public assistance we can in identifying who is responsible for this."